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Rolling Stone Magazine: John Mellencamp Brings His Raw New Sound To Radio City
03.04.2011 - By Andy Greene - Twenty Minutes After leaving the stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, John Mellencamp is smoking an American Spirit and pouring himself a glass of chocolate milk inside his parked tour bus. A docked iPod spins Billboard’s Top 100 songs of 1968: Motown singer Shorty Long’s “Here Comes the Judge,” followed by Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Say a Little Prayer.”

Just a few minutes earlier, Mellencamp’s new girlfriend, Meg Ryan exited the bus and docked back inside Radio City as a throng of fans lined up nearby let out a scream. Paparazzi have been following the couple all over New York, and Mellencamp is fed up, “I’m disgusted by it,” he says. “They’re more interested in her, so I feel sorry for her. We’re seniors, man. Who cares about that? They ran out of other people to fuck with.”

Mellencamp perks up when the conversation turns to the ambitious theater tour he just launched to support his raw, stripped-down new LP, No Better Than This. He’s been pleasantly surprised to find that his audience stay engaged during long stretches of new material. “You couldn’t do this kind of show in an area,” he says. “Nobody would listen.”

For much of the last two decades, Mellencamp concerts have been built around his greatest hits. “I feel like a monkey on a string,” he says. “I’m a music lover, and it just turned into a spectacle. I could have made more money [on this tour] if I waited until the summer and played the hits. I’m just not that interested in that anymore.”

The ones he does play are radically rearranged: “Cherry Bomb” is delivered a cappella; he performs “Small Town” on an acoustic guitar, accompanied only by a violinist. “Jack and Diane” is as country-swing song now,” he says. “I didn’t even know what a sad song it was because I played it in the pop form so many times.”

The two-and-a-half hour set is his longest in years, and it’s not even the whole show: Fans who arrive early see a one-hour documentary about the making of the album. “This is a vaudeville show,” Mellencamp says, “There’s blues songs and country songs. The only difference is that one guy is singing them.”

Mellencamp spent the last two summers playing minor-league ballparks in small towns with Bob Dylan. “I feel as close to him as anybody in the music business,” Mellencamp, says. “He’s the funniest guy in the world. We tease each other a lot and have a nice, easy rapport.” Mellencamp has also taken advice from fellow Farm Aid board member Neil Young. “Ten years ago, he told me, ‘John, if you’ve got a problem, it’s that you’ve got too many hits.’ He realized he has too many and he was finding it noninteresting, so he kind of quit doing it too.”

Mellencamp realizes that he’s moving farther away from mainstream stardom. “I don’t expect to sell records or hear them on the radio,” he says. “These records are just calling cards to say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing now.’ That’s the way music started out originally. The only money people ever made was playing. That’s what I’m going to do. Go out and play.”


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More HITS

Further to the above, I have to say I loved the songs played from the NEW album. I'd been listening to it for many days before the show and figured I was ready for the experience. Well, live versions always win out. It was great to hear them live!, even played different. "Right Behind Me" was beautiful hearing the fiddle player (Miriam Sturm) so present and on top of the mix, and the stop-starts that caught us all off guard didnt seem out of place. Eventually, there are songs on the album that will become standards (surely) such as "Save Some Time To Dream". This will have meaning and put a time & place for us to recall when we see a show years on from now. Hits or not, good things we cherish.

Posted by DAVE300B 2011-03-05 01:58:18.

HITS?

In Toronto, with my wife, we heard almost every hit we wanted (two exceptions) but all those we heard - there were many - were inarresting (to quote N.Y.). The twist on the hits may not have been what was expected but just in case it isnt quite clear; the hits are waht made a great connection for us initially and forever. We need that connection 'live' as we not only want the experience again, we want the master to speak directly to us. To hear those words & melodies played for us intimately. After all, we made the connection with those 'hits' because each one moved us inside to such a degree that we became loyal fans of the MUSIC - the songs endure and we need only a small sample of the magic that made memories in time for us; in simile or straight up - Thanks. That said, the show we saw will leave lasting memories for me and my wife - we recaptured something that night you played and I Thank You Sir.

Posted by DAVE300B 2011-03-04 21:12:00.

 
 

 

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