Foghat Live in Lodi

Lodi Grape Festival, Lodi, CA
September 17, 2017

By Dan Wall

Set List: Driving Wheel, Stone Blue, Hot Mama, Louisiana Blues, Needle and Spoon, It Hurts Me Too, Fool for the City, Home in My Hand, Road Fever, Honey Hush, I Just Wanna Make Love to You.  Encore: Slow Ride.

95 minutes.

If any classic rock band still treading the boards in 2017 can be called the ultimate road dogs, it’s Foghat. The band started in 1971 after three core members of Savoy Brown left to start this blues rock supergroup. The current version of the band is still touring regularly with replacement members for every original member but drummer Roger Earl, the band’s backbeat for 46 years.

Still playing a solid mix of rock, blues and boogie after all these years, the veteran rockers landed in Lodi (you remember, John Fogerty was stuck here once) and rocked a full house at the local fair/wine festival/summer gathering with a 95-minute set of hits, album cuts and the entire classic record Foghat Live.

Your reviewer has had the great pleasure over the years of seeing this band in just about every incarnation. Amazingly, the first band I ever saw live was Foghat, opening for Rod Stewart and the Faces back in March, 1975. I also witnessed one of the greatest shows ever, where the band sat in the middle of a bill with opener Head East and The J. Geils Band at Winterland in San Francisco in 1976. Foghat roared thru 75 minutes and two encores-Geils topped it with a two-hour show that featured six (yes, six) encores. (That’s not six songs, mind you; that’s six separate encore calls. It’s still in my all-time personal Top 10).

Earl is not only the drummer but the gatekeeper for the band now, and he has assembled a top-notch quartet that helps maintain the group’s legacy while showing off the needed musical muscle to add to it. The group performed its usual set to an appreciate crowd of old fans and new, younger recruits, making sure each fan in attendance felt the power of a Foghat live experience (and hopefully, the greatness of the corn dog).

While Earl is solid as a rock behind the kit and the band’s songbook remains one of the best in live rock, this unit wouldn’t be as popular as it is if it wasn’t for the three other guys who took over for the original players. The late Lonesome Dave Peverett was one of the best front men/singers of the 70’s, and original (and also late) guitarist Rod Price was one of the greatest slide guitar players ever (mentioned in the same conversations with the rock king, Duane Allman). So, finding musicians who can fill the void of those two guys and the many bassists the group has employed (Foghat has had more bassists than Spinal Tap has had drummers) was no easy task, but Earl has done it with relative ease.

Guitarist Bryan Bassett has been with the group since 1999, stepping into the large void left by Price. Price took the slide guitar styling popularized by Elmore James and Allman and super-sized it, making it a cool gimmick for mainstream rock. Very few guitarists can play the style, though, so I can report with confidence that the ex-Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchet string-bender plays all of Price’s best-known riffs and solos with tremendous skill, and has enough talent and vision to add his own stamp to these classic songs.

Charlie Huhn (formerly of Victory, Ted Nugent, Humble Pie, Gary Moore and many other projects) now fills the most important role in Foghat. Huhn, a great blues-based singer (you’d have to be to fill in for Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott) and a capable second guitarist, took over for Peverett, in 2000, and has hung on to the job ever since. Rounding out the quartet is longtime Pat Travers bassist Rodney O’Quinn, a tremendous musician that holds down the bottom and supplies back-up vocals. The set list hasn’t changed much in the over 40 years I’ve been attending the group’s shows, with “Fool for the City,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and “Slow Ride,” which amounts to a Foghat triple-shot on virtually every classic rock radio station still going, being the highlights.

To top it off, they are truly a bunch of nice guys. Ecstatic to still be performing for its huge fanbase, it shows onstage. Foghat never made a truly great single record-Fool for the City is the one that gets the most mentions due to the inclusion of the title cut and “Slow Ride,” one of the great closing set numbers in the history of live rock. But Foghat Live is its classic, and the band carries on today doing what it does best-playing (and burning up) concert stages.