By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


June 30, 2005

Nonstalgia without guilt held sway Tuesday night as two of rock's greatest performers delivered their best-loved music before an appreciative crowd at the sweatbox known as UMB Bank Pavilion.

John Fogerty and John Mellencamp, with no new music to flog, are in the middle of an unabashed greatest-hits tour, Fogerty under the banner "Rockin' America" and Mellencamp under "Words and Music," the title of his recent greatest hits package.

But the show was anything but a rote, commercial enterprise. Both artists, each of whom has had a rocky relationship with his early material, embraced their pasts. Backed by magnificent bands, Fogerty and Mellencamp delivered their early hits over about three hours with obvious joy.

Mellencamp, 53, took the headliner's closing slot, backed by a seven-piece band. He played 18 tunes, spanning his career from his days as Johnny Cougar through John Cougar Mellencamp to today. After an opening sequence that included "Small Town," "Minutes to Memories" and "Lonely Ol' Night," he called out Fogerty, "one of my heroes," for duets on Fogerty's Creedence Clearwater Revival hit "Green River" and Mellencamp's "Rain on the Scarecrow."

He encouraged sing-alongs on early "Cougar" tunes he once rejected, such as "I Need A Lover" and "Jack and Diane," as well as later anthems such as "Authority Song" and "Pink Houses."

Mellencamp's band, especially fiddler Miriam Sturm, guitarists Andy York and Mike Wanchic and drummer Dane Clark, sparkled. Mellencamp's sense of dynamics gives these rockers new impact on stage, as delicate percussion, accordion and fiddle build to a barrage of drums, power chords and walls of rhythm. It's thrilling to feel as well as hear this music.

A longtime political activist, Mellencamp made no speeches but let a series of video clips show his growth from Johnny Cougar on shows such as "American Bandstand" through his co-founding of Farm Aid and his work with Rock the Vote.

He closed with the gentle nostalgia of "Cherry Bomb," sharing lead vocals with his band.

Fogerty, dressed in what looked like jeans and a denim shirt with the sleeves rolled up, took the stage first and never stopped moving through 20 songs. How Fogerty, who turned 60 a month ago, survived the 90-degree heat with the setting sun in his face is a mystery. But he charged through a set list heavy on CCR hits, bouncing to the beat, jumping, and running back and forth across the stage as he re-created, nearly note for note, some of rock's most enduring music.

Fogerty mixed up his set nicely, playing less well-known album tracks such as "Bootleg" and "Keep on Chooglin'" amid radio staples including "Have You Seen the Rain," "Down on the Corner," "Travelin' Band," "Born on the Bayou," "Centerfield," "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Proud Mary."

One of many highlights was Fogerty's performance, alone and playing an acoustic guitar, of last fall's antiwar song "Déjà Vu (All Over Again)" as images from the Vietnam era flashed on video screens. Later came his original anti-war hit with CCR, "Fortunate Son," still angry and relevant.

During his encore, a playful Fogerty sang the often misconstrued line from "Bad Moon Rising" -- "there's a bathroom on the right" instead of "there's a bad moon on the rise" -- smiling and pointing stage right as he did it.