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Toronto Sun: John Mellencamp Rocks Massey Hall 4 Out Of 5 Stars Review
02.10.2011 - Toronto Sun By Jane Stevenson

Check it out.

Heartland rocker John Mellencamp has clearly moved on from his Ď80s-era arena-playing self.

But not entirely.

ďI used to be a dangerous young man, now Iím a dangerous old man,Ē joked the 59-year-old Mellencamp at Massey Hall on Wednesday night.

First of all, the singer-songwriter - still looking great with his trademark luxurious hair, buff upper body, and the ability to effortlessly slide and shuffle around the stage while sharply dressed in a brown suit and black short-sleeved shirt - is currently playing theatres for the first time in 13 years.

The intimate tour is in support of his T-Bone Burnett-produced 2010 album of stripped-down and stirring rockabilly-country-folk, No Better Than This.

Secondly, preceding the two-hour-and-ten-minutes of music during the first of two back-to-back shows at Massey was the screening of the documentary, Itís About You.

Filmed by father-and-son team of Kurt and Ian Markus during Mellencampís 2009 tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and while he was recording No Better Than This in the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, the Sun Studio in Memphis and the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where blues pioneer Robert Johnson recorded, the film essentially educated the audience on the new music they were about to hear.

Itís sounds simple but it was a genius idea, particularly given where and how - with a 1955 Ampex portable recording machine, only one microphone and in mono - No Better Than This was recorded.

And, honestly, I canít ever remember going to a concert, and seeing a documentary about the artist first before he/she/they played a live set.

Those watching the film also got to see Mellencamp and his now estranged third wife, model Elaine Irwin (heís reportedly dating Meg Ryan since announcing his separation from Irwin in December 2010), get baptized in a pool inside the church.

The religious imagery continued with the big cross on a chain around Mellencampís neck to a tiny Jesus statue resting on his amplifier on stage at Massey.

One big surprise: the ever-present cigarette in Mellencampís hand in the film while he was recording given he suffered a mild heart attack in 1994, and the funniest moment was when Sun Studio session bassist Dave Roe told him that Johnny Cash called him one of the ten best songwriters but the film-makers failed to capture the moment with the cameras rolling.

Significantly, Cashís Godís Gonna Cut You Down was played before Mellencamp and six crack musicians, with special shout-outs to lead guitarist Andy York, fiddler Miriam Strum and drummer Dane Clark, took the stage.

Such crowd-pleasing hits as Authority Song, Check it Out, an a capella Cherry Bomb, a re-invented Jack and Diane, Small Town, Rain On The Scarecrow, Paper In Fire, Pink Houses and R.O.C.K. In The USA (with the singer pulling a female patron up on stage to dance and sing with him) - were interspersed throughout the 25-song set.

Mellencamp also alternated between rockabilly, solo acoustic and rock band mode while playing in front of a painted backdrop that included a movie poster for the Paul Newman movie, Hud, after whom he named one of his sons with Irwin.

But the really cool-sounding material were the new songs No One Cares About Me, Save Some Time To Dream, Right Behind Me, and the title track from No Better Than this, which is saying something for Mellencamp after some thirty-plus years in the business, and older tunes like Death Letter, John Cockers, Donít Need This Body, and Longest Days.


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Keep on Rockin'

Hey there...John have been enjoyin' your videos off the new CD...great music, lyrics...and playin' you and your band! Like the fact you move with the music...and well it is!! aaahhh Have a wonderful continuation of your Tour along with lots of Love, Joy...Peace & Health! To keep ya goin'! We Love YA...JOHN!

Posted by ashlypub 2011-02-14 16:06:14.

Amazing Performance

After a stressful 3 hours in the ER with NY 10 year old that afternoon/evening, I managed to get to the concert with a whole ten minutes to spare and completely missed the film. However, second row seats in front and center pretty much made up for that! John and I are both from the same small town of Seymour, IN and I love hearing all then references to people and places I remember. My great grandfather and second cousin were in his Rain on the Scarecrow video. The performance was great, his band is fabulous, and I only wish I could have been on stage with him, too. But since I was still in the ER at 7, I am just happy to have made it at all and will make every effort to see him again!

Posted by LBR67 2011-02-13 12:17:59.

One LUCKY GAL

Hey there, I just wanted to take a second to say how AMAZING John Mellencamp and his band were. For those of us there, it really was OUTSTANDING. Massey Hall is a venue that is one of a kind. I'm still smiling from that show as I was the VERY LUCKY and GRATEFUL gal that got invited up on stage. It was a moment that I will NEVER forget :)

Posted by dakinleech 2011-02-11 13:53:03.

 
 

 

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