Being an extra on John Fogerty's Live at the Albert Hall DVD
I went to see John Fogerty at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday. I've been a big fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival ever since listening to my dad's tapes in the car in the 1970s - as you'll be finding out in a series of articles about music nostalgia I've got coming up in July - and so it was an ambition fulfilled to finally see him live.
John Fogerty was also fulfilling an ambition as well. 37 years ago, Creedence Clearwater Revival played at the same venue, and thereafter there followed one of the most legally complicated and acrimonious band break-ups in rock history. John wasn't on speaking terms with his brother Tom when he died in the 1990s, and even when the surviving members were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Fogerty still couldn't bury the hatchet and refused to let Stu Cook and Doug Clifford play on stage.
The evening was being recorded for a DVD release later this year. I know this, because it was one of the most intrusive film recordings at a show I have ever had the misfortune to witness. I've been to several shows that have made it onto commercial DVD release (Erasure at the Royal Albert Hall, Depeche Mode in Milan, Happy Mondays on SNUB-TV with a big slo-mo close-up of my seemingly drug-addled face) but I'd never seen anything like this.
First of all, before the band started, we were introduced to the director. Lights were then put onto the crowd, and we were asked to jump and down and give our best enthusiasm so they could get some good 'audience reaction' shots. They then ferried various groups of fans down to the front of the stage in order to do some close-up reaction shots and some pans across the crowd. Then the producer of the DVD came on stage to explain to us that the DVD was going to be great, they were so glad to be making it, and they would try not to disrupt the evening too much.
Which was a lie...
The show started with a couple of storming numbers - "Comin' Down The Road" and Creedence classic "Born On The Bayou". The crowd was up and dancing, and it looked set to be a great night.
And then they had to pause so that Fogerty's make-up could be re-touched.
Then a few more numbers, then another lengthy pause as a costume adjustment was made.
And so on...and so on. It was more like being at the filming of a TV show than a gig.
Eventually the crowd started booing during one of the interruptions, and so Fogerty's backing band filled in to play a couple of rock'n'roll cover numbers as the complicated business of getting 6 stools placed in the right spot on stage was accomplished.
Any momentum that was built up during the set-list was destroyed by the frequent pauses to meet the demands of the DVD filming. It felt like being extras on a set, rather than being thousands of fans who had paid £40+ in order to see the show.
Late on, John Fogerty rescued the night for me by playing a closing run of CCR hits like 'Proud Mary', 'Fortunate Son' and 'Down On The Corner', but at times earlier in the evening the atmosphere in the Albert Hall had been rendered completely flat. It will be interesting to see how that translates to DVD...