Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

The Space Cowboy, Joker and the Fortunate Son prove that old rockers don’t die they just keep rolling on – Bluesfest 2018 at the O2 Dome in London kicks off in style with Jo Harman, Steve Miller Band and then a marathon 20+ song Creedence Clearwater Revival based setlist from John Fogerty.

John Fogerty

There are smiles all-round the dome tonight, you’ve got your 2 pints of beer, or a tumbler of wine, your denim and an old tour shirt on and a good seat in the house, it’s Bluesfest 2018. A festival that isn’t really a festival, more of a collection of individual concerts with a similar genre in London’s O2 Dome. As far as I’m aware there is no collective ticket for the weekend, and only one stage, but at least there’s no chance of rain or getting mud on your boots. Tonight is opening night, and later into the weekend there are performances from Robert Plant, Van Morrison, Counting Crows and the very UnBlues and definitely Country – Zac Brown Band. A plethora of established acts at the senior end of the market which matches the audience, it’s fully seated and there are plenty of toilets for those weak bladders.

First up a surprise opening act only announced a few days before. Jo Harman has a voice like Joni Mitchell if she sang more blues, and a tone that you could listen to all night. There were a few in to hear her scattered around this canyon of a venue, they warmed to her gentle blues tracks as tonight she was only accompanied by some keyboards rather than a full band. We didn’t get the rock and blues machine on full throttle, but the highlight was a drop-dead gorgeous and breath-taking version of Carole King’s ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ the answer is Yes definitely – let’s book another date soon!

Jo Harman-2

Jo Harman

Steve Miller had been soundchecking right up to the doors opening and his large band sounded superb on the opening tracks, something this venue had been criticised for in the past. By now the place was full and the clientele on their third or fourth drink, it was warming up considerably. However, Miller didn’t move too far away from the mic and looked a studious performer rather than entertainer.

Steve Miller

Steve Miller-2

It’s a shame really because in contrast to John Fogerty it lacked a spark to keep everyone focussed on the stage. Yes he played everything from second track ‘Abracadabra’ to ‘RocknMe’ and ‘The Joker’ and reminded everyone that “This was a Blues festival so let’s play some Blues” – However, he was all blue suited up like an accountant fresh from Canary Wharf and delivered a long set which was at times technically brilliant but lacking in emotion. He referred to meeting Blues legends like Otis Rush (sadly now passed) and played a cover of his ‘All Your Love (I Miss Loving)’. Even straddling a huge sitar for the psychedelic section in ‘Wild Mountain Honey’ and shaking a bit of that now white/grey hair during ‘Jet Airliner’ didn’t seem to raise the audience noise levels above mildly amused.

In contrast to Steve Miller, John Fogerty bounded out like the real Space Cowboy, wearing a black jacket with planets and stars on it and underneath was that uniformed plaid shirt that the band were all sporting, particularly the 3 piece horn section who were a fine addition to the rest of the band. Fogerty radiates happiness though, and dives straight into a CCR track ‘Travelin’ Band’, the crowd are on their feet and dancing down at the front.

John Fogerty-5

John Fogerty-6

It’s very much a family affair tonight with his son Shane on guitar and during the lengthy set they got down to some serious duelling, particularly during ‘The Old Man Down the Road’ and ‘Born on the Bayou’ where the Old Man on stage was smiling constantly and tapping the shoulder of his son like he was egging him on for another round.

Armed with his trusty Les Paul guitar, Fogerty ripped out a series of solos throughout the night, demonstrating that at a youthful 73, he not only looks and sounds great, but can still nimbly work a fretboard. He bounced all over the place, his tawny (dyed) hair flopping, as the band dug into the rich pickings from a Creedence Clearwater Revival setlist.

John Fogerty-9

Bringing out another family member Shane’s brother Wayne to dance around in a garish red suit to ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ was a bizarre 4 minutes, but a highlight of the 90-minute set was a tribute to New Orleans featuring a washboard, accordion, that fabulous horn section and, as the band segued from Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya (On the Bayou)’ to Gary U.S. Bonds’ ‘New Orleans’, a mini Mardi Gras parade of musicians went around the front stalls, throwing necklaces out and unfurling a lively ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.

Fogerty chats in-between songs and introduces ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’ by showing a photo of his daughter Kelsey as a babe in arms, saying “She’s now 17 and still a rainbow in his life, there’s a rainbow in this song……” It was a little trite and prepared, but it didn’t stop a blistering singalong performance of that song and with ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ next, the air guitars were out in force with punters down the front doing a Status Quo routine.

John Fogerty-8

John Fogerty-7

The most incendiary fretwork of all came as an intro to ‘Keep on Chooglin’, channelling some serious Eddie Van Halen, Fogerty busted out fingertapping a la ‘Eruption’ Completely unexpected and out of context, yet showing he can step quite easily from full blown Dixieland covers to Californian hair metal.

‘Fortunate Son’ was an eagerly awaited classic and didn’t disappoint even though it felt a little rushed, and after the confetti bomb went off at the end of the track, they went immediately into a rollicking version of ‘Bad Moon Rising’. It felt like he had to motor through the last 3 songs as the curfew of 11pm was getting far too close for comfort. Fogerty would no doubt have been happier playing another hour as his energy levels were at Springsteen heights at this point. ‘Proud Mary’ had to be fitted in somewhere and as the final song of the night it was appropriate to bring this septuagenarian rock and blues show to a close. Big wheels keep on turning and John Fogerty is still rocking and rolling by the river tonight.

★★★★☆ (4/5)

John Fogerty-4

SETLISTS:

Jo Harman:
I Shall Not be Moved / Silhouettes of You / Say That You Want Me / Will You Love Me Tomorrow / Sweet Man Moses / When we Were Young

Steve Miller Band:
The Stake / Abracadabra / Mercury Blues / All Your Love (I Miss Loving / Space Cowboy / Kow Kow Calqulator / Take the Money and Run / I Want to Make the World Turn Around / Wild Mountain Honey / Dance, Dance, Dance / Serenade From the Stars / Space Intro / Fly Like an Eagle / Swingtown / Rock’n’Me / The Joker / Jungle Love / Threshold / Jet Airliner

John Fogerty:
Travelin’ Band / Green River / Hey Tonight / Up Around the Bend / Who’ll Stop the Rain / Lookin’ Out My Back Door / Rock and Roll Girls / Good Golly Miss Molly / Psycho / Long as I Can See the Light / Mystic Highway / Born on the Bayou / My Toot Toot / Jambalaya (On the Bayou) / New Orleans / Have You Ever Seen the Rain / Rockin’ All Over the World / Down on the Corner / The Old Man Down the Road / Keep on Chooglin’ / Fortunate Son / Bad Moon Rising / Proud Mary

One Response to “Bluesfest 2018 Ft. John Fogerty + Steve Miller Band + Jo Harman at O2 Stadium, London – 25th October 2018”

  1. Richard Alger Says:

    Great night — I enjoyed all three … I don’t really need Steve Miller to dance around stage — but the sound and playing were excellent as ever – even if he did look like he worked for the Bank of England !!
    I,m a huge Creedence fan, but agree it did feel like they were trying to cram numbers in which was a shame and the booming bass drowned out a few of the early numbers which was a shame until they sorted it out – that is definitely an issue at the O2. Good review though – thank you

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