John Fogerty & ZZ Top Bring Blues & Bayous Tour To Holmdel, NJ

Yesterday evening, it was finally time for John Fogerty and ZZ Top at PNC Bank Arts Center. I’ve been fortunate to see a number of great shows there over the past few years and have come to like this amphitheater-style venue in Holmdel, NJ. The Allman Brothers Band, Santana and Steve Winwood are a few of the concerts that come to mind. Of course, one of the potential caveats with outdoor venues is the weather, and things started off a bit dicey on that front.

While driving to PNC, I was blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen The Rain from my car stereo, literally living the song: seeing the rain, coming down on a sunny day – at times pretty heavily! I arrived right in the middle of an early evening thunderstorm with lots of lightning and thunder, and it wasn’t hard to imagine to see a bad moon rising. But I had waited for Fogerty for some 40 years and was determined not to allow some rain to get into the way. Luckily, the thunderstorm dissipated before the show got underway and I could ride it out in my car in the parking lot.

Blues & Bayous Tour

ZZ Top started the main part of the evening. There was an opening act I missed due to surprisingly long lines to enter the facility – the first time I ever recall encountering that at PNC. The Texan rockers’ set was identical to the song lineup they played during the tour opener in Atlantic City the night before, mostly drawing from their ’70s albums and 1983’s Eliminator, the band’s most commercially successful release. That was the record that first brought ZZ Top on my radar screen, long before I listened to their first three albums, which I now generally like better than their 80s recordings.

As usual, I didn’t record any videos with one exception, so I’m relied on YouTube clips from previous live shows. To make it as similar as possible, I tried to find the most recent footage with an acceptable quality. I realize this approach not 100% ideal, but for the most part I believe it captures the overall feel of the show.

Things kicked off with Got Me Under Pressure from Eliminator followed by a nice cover of I Thank You, first recorded by Sam & Dave in 1968 – it’s hardly impossible to ever go wrong with a Stax tune, at least in my book! Next up was Waitin’ For The Bus, one of my favorite ZZ Top tunes. It is the opener of their third studio album Tres Hombres from July 1973. Unlike most other original tunes that are credited to all three members, only guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill share credits for this song. ZZ Top combined it with Jesus Left Chicago, another track from the same album. Here’s a nice clip from Bonnaroo 2013 where they did the same.

Another song I’d like to highlight is I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide. It is from Degüello, ZZ Top’s sixth studio release from November 1979. One thing I thought was fun to watch was Gibbons and Hill trading guitar and bass parts toward the end of the song.

Close to the end of the regular set came Sharp Dressed Man. The track, which is also from the Eliminator album, remains a classic to this day despite its noticeable ’80s sound. Surprisingly to me, when it came out in 1983, it only reached no. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it did better, peaking at no. 8 on the singles chart.

The encore was reserved for two other ZZ Top classics: La Grange from Tres Hombres and Tush, which in my opinion perhaps is the ultimate blues rocker – at least the studio version, on which the band sounds super-tight and just rocks! Tush is the closer of Fandago!, the follow-on album to Tres Hombres, which came out in April 1975.

ZZ Top certainly delivered a solid performance. All three of them are top notch musicians, who have played together forever. The one thing I thought was missing a bit was joy and spontaneity. At times the performance felt like a routine, a show they had done a million times – which undoubtedly must be true for most of the songs they played.

After a 15- to 20-minute intermission, John Fogerty and his band got on stage. Not only did they play a fantastic set, though no encore, but in marked contrast to ZZ Top, you could see these guys had fun, especially Fogerty. He was upbeat in his announcements and moved around the stage quite a bit, projecting an almost youthful joy of playing that reminded me a bit of Paul McCartney.

John and Shane Fogerty
John Fogerty with his son Shane Fogerty who plays guitar and his backing band

The set featured mostly featured classics from all CCR albums, except the last one, Mardi Gras, and tunes from Fogerty’s excellent 1985 solo record Centerfield. It also included a new tune Fogerty had recorded with Gibbons leading up to the tour, and a few covers. Unlike ZZ Top, Fogerty made a few variations to the set he played during the tour opener in Atlantic City.

The first track I’d like to highlight is Rock And Roll Girls from the Centerfield album that was released in January 1985. I’ve always liked this tune. One of the distinct features last night was a great Clarence Clemons-style solo by young saxophone dynamo Nathan Collins, giving the tune a nice Bruce Springsteen vibe. According to his blog on John Fogerty’s official website, he will be a senior at the University of Southern California in the Popular Music Performance program – way to go! The quality of the following clip isn’t great, but it’s the only recent version I could find that features the sax part.

Who’ll Stop The Rain appeared on Cosmo’s Factory, CCR’s fifth studio album from July 1970. Fogerty introduced it by pointing out he was playing the tune with the same Rickenbacker guitar he had used at Woodstock – a 325 Sunburst from 1969. How cool is that! And, as has been reported by Rolling Stone and other entertainment media, Fogerty actually gave away that guitar in 1972/73 and it was “lost” for some 44 years, until his wife Julie was able to recover it in 2016 after an extensive search and gave it to John as a Christmas present that year – wow!

Apart from showing an upbeat spirit throughout the night, Fogerty also made it very clear he’s a proud dad. In fact, one of the members of his backup band is his son Shane Fogerty, who did a nice job on guitar, frequently trading solos with his father. The gig also featured another son, Tyler Fogerty, who like his brother is a musician playing guitar and singing. In fact, in 2012, the two brothers were among the co-founding members of Hearty Har in Los Angeles, which describe themselves as a psychedelic rock band. Tyler shared vocals on a few covers, one of which was Good Golly, Miss Molly, the rock & roll classic that first was made famous by Little Richard in 1958.

The next song I’d like to highlight is Holy Grail, Fogerty’s new song he had recorded with Gibbons leading up to the tour. It’s got a nice La Grange groove to it. It’s the only tune I recorded myself, since I figured it might be tough to find it on YouTube. Fogerty and Gibbons had only performed it live once before during the tour opener the night before. That song and a cover of the Moon Martin tune Bad Case Of Loving You, which they also played together, was when Gibbons seemed to be most engaged.

Another standout of the show was a string of New Orleans songs, during which the band truly shined. Here’s New Orleans, a great tune co-written by Frank Guida and Joseph Royster for Gary U.S. Bonds, who recorded it in 1960. The following clip nicely captures last night’s groove, though it’s a slightly different band. The guy on the bass who is visibly having a ball is producer Don Was.

I could go on and on, but this post is already getting very long. So the last song I’d like to highlight is one of my all-time favorite CCR tunes, Have You Ever Seen The Rain. They recorded it for their sixth studio album Pendulum released in December 1970. It also appeared separately and became the band’s eighth gold-selling single. In another dad moment, Fogerty dedicated the tune to his 16-year-old daughter Kelsy Cameron Fogerty. Sure, this wasn’t the first time he did that, but it still felt genuine.

This post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the other musicians in Fogerty’s band: Kenny Aronoff (drums), Bob Malone (keyboards), James LoMenzo (bass) and Devon Pangle (guitar). In addition to Collins, the horn section includes two other very talented young musicians: Steve Robinson (trombone) and Ethan Chilton (trumpet). Each of them also has a blog on Fogerty’s website. The fact that John Fogerty gives these young musicians this great opportunity for exposure tells me this man not only has soul but also is a true class act.

Sources: Wikipedia, Setlist.fm, Rolling Stone, Hearty Har website, John Fogerty Facebook page and official website, YouTube

12 thoughts on “John Fogerty & ZZ Top Bring Blues & Bayous Tour To Holmdel, NJ”

  1. I forgot you were going to see ZZ Top/ John Fogerty too. Its been twenty years since I have seen Fogerty but it sounds like he still likes what he is doing. Going to search and see if he is going to be within driving distance/ tickets available here.. He is famous for no encores. How long did each act play?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ZZ Top played first for about an hour, while Fogerty’s set lasted approximately 1.5 hours. In-between was a 20-minute intermission. There was also an opening act I missed due to unexpectedly long lines to enter the venue. Altogether, it was a close to 4-hour event including breaks.

      If you like Fogerty, I think you’d have a ball. He was so good and his backing band is excellent. It actually includes his son Shane, who does a nice job on guitar, trading licks with his old man! The band also included an ace horn section, which consisted of three young musicians.

      Most importantly, Fogerty came across as very genuine and showed an almost youthful joy that really reminded me of Paul McCartney when I saw him last about two years ago. It’s so engaging to watch!

      In contrast, while ZZ Top played great tunes, I just didn’t feel much passion there. At times, it felt more like they were playing a routine gig.

      Forgive my bad memory, you live in Ohio, right? I believe you mentioned it once. The Blues & Bayous Tour has two dates there: Cincinnati @ Riverbend Music Center (June 14) and Youngstown @ Covelli Centre (June 19).

      Even though I wasn’t 100% convinced of ZZ Top, I would see the show again only for Fogerty.

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      1. thanks i will look and see what the ticket situation looks like in youngstown- yes i live in ohio… it is Fogerty I want to see and the one thing i walked away from twenty years ago from his concert is- he wanted to be there and was full of enthusiasm. glad to see in 20 years it is still the same. Some concerts it does feel like the artist is punching the clock.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Unless he’s a great actor, John really enjoyed being there and playing for the audience.

        Below is the setlist, which was almost identical to what is posted on Setlist.fm for the tour opener in Atlantic City – not one bad tune on here!
        – Travelin’ Band
        – Lookin’ Out My Back Door
        – Hey Tonight
        – Rock and Roll Girls
        – Love and War
        – Who’ll Stop the Rain
        – Good Golly, Miss Molly
        – Another excellent cover I didn’t recognize
        – Up Around the Bend
        – Holy Grail (new song with Billy Gibbons)
        – Bad Case of Loving You (with Billy Gibbons)
        – I Heard It Through the Grapevine
        – Born on the Bayou
        – Jambalaya
        – New Orleans
        – Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
        – Down on the Corner
        – Centerfield
        – The Old Man Down the Road
        – Fortunate Son
        – Bad Moon Rising
        – Proud Mary

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That is an outstanding set list! I checked – I work until 8pm the night of the Youngstown concert.. Cincinnati is a good 4.5 hours away and I work that day and the next day… anyway. I am itching to go to a concert sometime soon.

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      4. Lynyrd Skynyrd, June 22, same venue. Recently, I found out that one of the special guests that night is Bad Company – I’m ready to go tonight! 🙂

        I also got a ticket for Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers (July 6, again the same venue), and decided to be crazy enough to go all the way to Boston on Jul 11 to see Neil Young solo. He’s one of my favorite long-time artists. Like Skynyrd and Steely Dan, I’ve never seen him.

        I also would have gone to Atlantic City in late August to see Stevie Wonder, but the tickets were almost $400 a piece – while I think he’s amazing, that’s just insane!

        Plus, I need to start slowing down my spending on concerts! Good thing there should be plenty of free or low cost shows over the summer within an hour drive radius from my house! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’ve seen Neil a number of times-but it’s been a while- he will be worth seeing. $400 is too much to pay for anyone! I am planning on seeing Chris Knight in mid-June at a small venue. Don’t know if you are familiar with him- in the Steve Earle mode alt.country americana.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’m not familiar with Chris Knight but have listened to some of Steve Earle’s music – though still got much more to explore there.

        While I wouldn’t say Americana was in my core wheel house, I’ve come to appreciate it over the past few years, in large part because of John Mellencamp. I really like his last album with Carlene Carter. I saw them both in Philly last year with special guest Emmylou Harris – great show!

        Small venues can be a lot of fun. One of my few small venue experiences was Buddy Guy at BB King Club in Manhattan earlier this year – very cool!

        I’d definitely would like to do more small venues. There is something to be said about the intimacy that comes with these places.

        The problem is I wanna do so many things when it comes to music. Even if I could afford paying for all of it, there is only so much time! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That sounds like a hell of a show. Even though they draw from a similar well, I’d never thought of Fogerty and ZZ Top in the same breath. I had been thinking about seeing the ZZTop/Gregg Allman tour but alas it wasn’t to be. Too bad the boys from Texas seemed somewhat disengaged. It’s tough, I guess when you’re playing so much old stuff. And I know that when I played in blues bands, by the third set I was bored and couldn’t think of much more to say in the blues context. Imagine night after night. That song ‘Holy Grail’ isn’t bad but it doesn’t sound like they stretched too much to write it. Sounds like a rewrite of La Grange. That venue you’re seeing Neil Young in is a good-sized (3500 seats) hall. Haven’t been inside there in ages so I hope the sound quality is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you like CCR and Fogerty’s solo stuff, you love that show. As for ZZ Top, I’m sure part of the reason why I felt they could have been a bit more engaged is that Fogerty’s performance was such a marked difference by comparison. He really looked like he had a ball, even though most of his songs were even older than ZZ Top’s material.

      Maybe the Texans simply didn’t have their best night. And even with that, it was still a cool experience. They certainly played many great tunes, and Billy Gibbons is just an ace guitarist!

      It was also fun to see Fogerty and Gibbons rocking together.

      Liked by 1 person

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