John Mellencamp/John Fogerty
At GM Place on Tuesday, August 23
When you get two singers like John Mellencamp and John Fogerty on a double bill, you've gotta hope to hell that they'll get together at some point during the show. Rock-star egos being what they are, such on-stage collaborations don't always pan out, but the two Johns have been around long enough to know that the music's all that matters. So, four songs into Mellencamp's set, the artist formerly known as John Cougar invited Fogerty up for several minutes of pure, unadulterated American roots-rock. They dueted on the latter's chooglin' CCR gem, "Green River" and on the former's stirring Farm Aid anthem, "Rain on the Scarecrow", and it was pure magic. As Fogerty left the stage, all Mellencamp could say was: "Let's face it, the guy's a motherfucker."
But we already knew that Fogerty was one bad mofo; he'd just been proving it for the last hour or so. He still owns the greatest voice in rock 'n' roll, and his twangy Telecaster licks are as bitchin' as ever. The last time I saw the living legend, at the Orpheum a few years back, he performed a lot of solo material, but this time around it was Creedence City. Nobody complained when he started off with the rousing "Traveling Band"; few balked when he followed it with the swampy strains of "Born on the Bayou". I only recognized one track off his latest CD, Déjíƒ Vu All Over Again, and as he introduced the title track, he noted the similarities between America's involvement in the Vietnam War and the current situation in Iraq. "I can't believe we're doing it all over again," he said, standing in front of a huge backdrop of an American flag, where electric-guitar necks took the place of the red stripes.
Two songs into his own set, Mellencamp echoed those antiwar sentiments, basically apologizing for his country's actions in the Middle East. The politics were dispensed with quickly, though, and the self-described Little Bastard put all his energy into delivering one of the classiest old-school rock shows the Garage has ever hosted. He's obviously fully recovered from the 1994 heart attack his previous four-pack-a-day habit brought on, because he shimmied up a storm on most every tune. Like Fogerty, his vocals are as strong as ever, and when he didn't feel like singing-as on the first verse of "Hurts So Good"-his crack eight-piece band covered for him. Unlike Fogerty, who strove to duplicate his concise CCR hits, Mellencamp played around with the original tempos and arrangements of songs like "Paper in Fire", letting his ace violinist and accordionist spice things up as they saw fit.
"I never wrote a song as good as John Fogerty," proclaimed Mellencamp at one point, and he's probably right. Popular as they are, reflective blue-collar ditties like "Pink Houses" and "Small Town" don't match the timeless perfection of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?". That said, by the time Mellencamp wrapped up his extended version of "Authority Song", it was perfectly clear that guitar boogie doesn't get any better.