Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival at The Royal Albert Hall-CD
Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall-DVD
CD-3 out of 5 stars
DVD-4 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Judging strictly by the near breathless tone of the pre-release publicity surrounding Creedence Clearwater Revival’s London’s Royal Albert Hall concert in April 1970, you’d think it was a stunning, riveting example of the band at the height of its career.
Unfortunately, it’s not.
Although the quartet was clearly at its pinnacle of popularity, the result is somewhat disappointing. Despite such bloviating adjectives as “legendary,” “fabled” and “long-awaited,” in the press release, this once thought lost gig presents a workmanlike set, not nearly as powerful or impressive as the two existing ones from the Oakland Coliseum (humbly titled The Concert) or Woodstock, both from the original four-piece outfit (they later continued as a trio).
Rather, this evening, meticulously restored by Giles Martin from aging tapes sitting in a vault somewhere for 50 years, is a sturdy but far from a revelatory example of Creedence rolling through a dozen hits and album tracks without much fuss and virtually no connection with the audience for a meager 42 minutes. By comparison, The Concert adds two more songs clocking in at 50 minutes and the recently unearthed Woodstock appearance has the foursome cranking out their repertoire for nearly an hour, the latter including a sizzling, closing “Suzie Q” absent here.
While this might be historically relevant, and it’s far from poor, it’s the least impressive of the two existing recordings from the same lineup. Some tunes are virtually indistinguishable from their recorded versions, although a few are sped up. At times it sounds like these guys are punching a clock rather than reveling in playing a few sold-out nights at a storied venue on their first European tour. Perhaps they were jet lagged.
Regardless, it’s not surprisingly all John Fogerty, all the time. He takes every guitar solo, sings lead (the others only occasionally provide spare vocal backup), and of course wrote the songs except for three covers (“Cotton Fields,” “The Night Time is the Right Time,” “Good Golly Miss Molly”).
The accompanying documentary narrated by the distinctive voice of Jeff Bridges in full “dude” mode is better. This straight-ahead recap of the band’s rise to fame after a few missteps and years playing crappy bars (detailed in “Lodi,” a song not included in the live set) is a solid, well-constructed, look at their history, including footage of their initial trip to Europe, culminating in the full Royal Albert Hall presentation. It seems that everyone is at least having some fun on stage, which doesn’t translate to the audio-only recording.
Diehard Creedence fans may get juiced about the appearance of this long-rumored show, but casual listeners can suffice with the existing albums that capture the group in better form than this somewhat perfunctory performance.
Photo by Joel Selvin / Shorefire Media