“John, Tom, Stu, and Doug may not have had the familiar ring to it of John, Paul, George, and Ringo,” narrator Jeff Bridges says early into Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall, but by the late 1960s, they were no less some of the most unique rock-stars in American music. It was April 1970 when Creedence Clearwater Revival touched down in England to begin their very first European tour; it was the same time The Beatles shocked the world by breaking up. This new, 85-minute Netflix documentary helps contextualize the era and treats us to some of the group’s finest jams.
While I say that, I truly cannot think of a bad CCR song. They’ve been among my favorite bands since I was a child; their jangly compositions, bluesy, swamp-rock sound, and frontman/lead singer John Fogerty’s unmistakable cadence all came together to create songs that felt lived-in and authentic. Picking a favorite is downright impossible, but I’d have to put “Lodi” (which is sadly absent from this doc) atop my list. Still, this economical offering is one-third concert movie, one-part travelogue, and historical background into one of the most acclaimed bands of its era that, had it not been for such a short run, would probably see their name mentioned in the GOAT conversation more frequently.
Bridges narrates much of Travelin’ Band, which features a treasure trove of seldom-seen footage of the four gents gallivanting across the pond, taking in Rotterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Paris, marveling at the change of scenery. With the Beatles out of the picture, this was CCR’s time to shine at the historic Royal Albert Hall. They had more than enough material with which to work. CCR was somewhat defiant with their prolific output, having released three hit albums in 1969 — Bayou Country, Green River, and Willy and the Poor Boys — before following the trifecta up with another classic in Cosmo’s Factory the next year. Such a deluge of new music would suggest that several songs got lost in the shuffle, but collectively, the four albums produced 11 top ten hits, including: “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Down on the Corner,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and “Fortunate Son,” a staple of every Nam documentary ever made.
Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall has a little trouble making its three contrasting ingredients mesh within the first half of the documentary. It waffles between being a behind-the-scenes expose and a concert movie, and it’s frustrating when it absorbs you in one aspect only to pivot to the other. Neither angle is flawed — the home video footage of Fogerty sharing his songwriting style, and the four gents touring Europe is supremely entertaining stuff — it just feels crowded and underwhelming as director Bob Smeaton tries to make the film work both ways.
The second half is what you want to see, as it’s then when the film pivots into showing the Royal Albert Hall concert exclusively, with no narration interruptions nor cutaways. CCR is in top-form as they not only perform the hits, but flawlessly segue from “Travelin’ Band” to “Born on the Bayou.” The crowd loves it, the bandmates are true performers, and the songs sound about as well as they do on the respective studio albums.
Travelin’ Band is all smiles and high-notes, neglecting to dive into the band’s dissolvement, spearheaded by Fogerty’s increasingly controlling nature and his brother Tom’s eventual departure ahead of their final record, Mardi Gras. That’s no problem at all. While the film should’ve been the concert, and nothing more, the morsels of access we’re afforded are a treat for any CCR fan. The music remains the headliner as the breezy flick choogles on with all the charm you expect.
NOTE: Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Directed by: Bob Smeaton.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!