Toronto Sun: John Mellencamp Rocks Massey Hall 4 Out Of 5 Stars Review
Toronto Sun By Jane Stevenson
Check it out.
Heartland rocker John Mellencamp has clearly moved on from his Ď80s-era
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
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
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
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
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.