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Cleveland's Plain Dealer: John Mellencamp Goes 'vaudeville' In Exhilarating Concert at Palace Theatre
11.18.2010 - The Plain Dealer By John Soeder

“This really isn’t a rock show anymore,” John Mellencamp mused.

“This is a vaudeville show. We’re a song-and-dance band.”

With some 20 albums and more than 30 years in the music business under his (loose) belt -- he kept hiking up his pants -- it would’ve been easy for Mellencamp to phone in just another gig.

Instead, he belted out new material and old favorites alike with an exhilarating sense of purpose and devil-may-care passion, starting with his 1984 hit “Authority Song.”

These days, he’s fighting not only authority, but also the dying of the light.

Mellencamp, 59, contemplated mortality to the tune of “Death Letter,” “Don’t Need This Body,” “If I Die Sudden” and other songs that reduced those chili dogs behind the Tastee Freez to a distant memory.

Still, the occasionally heavy subject matter didn’t preclude Mellencamp from snapping his fingers and dancing carefree around the stage, beneath strings of multicolored lights.

And speaking of “Jack & Diane,” our favorite high-school sweethearts got a twangy makeover with a fresh arrangement.

Guitarists Michael Wanchic and Andy York, violinist Miriam Sturm, keyboardist Troye Kinnett, bassist John Gunnell and drummer Dane Clark provided solid accompaniment.

Nonetheless, some of the most gripping moments found Mellencamp flying solo with an acoustic guitar.

“Save some time to dream
/ ’Cause your dream could save us all,” he sang during “Save Some Time to Dream,” a new ballad inspired by a conversation with his father. Bob Dylan himself couldn’t have delivered a more Dylanesque gem.

Mellencamp performed six tunes from his latest release, “No Better than This,” a profoundly rootsy affair. T Bone Burnett produced the album, although it sounds as if Mellencamp would like us to believe Alan Lomax came across him playing these songs in a field somewhere.

Mellencamp channeled Woody Guthrie for the homespun social commentary of “The West End.” Other new tunes such as “Right Behind Me” and “Easter Eve” also held their own alongside the usual crowd-pleasers, including a no-frills “Small Town.”

After dabbling in numerous other genres, from bluegrass to folk to gospel, Mellencamp was ready to rock out toward the end of the evening with full-throttle renditions of “Rain on the Scarecrow,” “Paper in Fire” and an especially powerful “What If I Came Knocking.”

More than two hours after it began, the show culminated with the one-two knockout punch of “Pink Houses” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” During the latter song, Mellencamp cut the rug with a woman from the audience.

In lieu of an opening act, we got to watch “It’s About You,” a new cinema-verite documentary about Mellencamp. The film was entertaining, even if screening it before a Mellencamp concert bordered on too much of a good thing.

Then again, try telling that to the self-proclaimed “dangerous old man” who was the star of both shows.

I dare you.


SET LIST

Authority Song

No One Cares About Me

Deep Blue Heart

Death Letter

Walk Tall

The West End

Check It Out

Save Some Time to Dream

Cherry Bomb

Don't Need This Body

Right Behind Me

Jackie Brown

Longest Days

Easter Eve

Jack & Diane

Small Town

New Hymn

Rain on the Scarecrow

Paper In Fire

The Real Life

What if I Came Knocking

If I Die Sudden

No Better Than This

Pink Houses

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

 
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Front and center and LOVED IT!

Hubby and I were front and center right ON the stage and loved every minute of it! We've been to Johns last 4 tours (Front row each time) and this was by far the best. Loved the energy, the sound, the banter and the venue, simply put it ROCKED. The reworked version of Jack and Diane was awesome as was Cherry Bomb, made me feel 20 again for just one night. Thanks to John and the band for a wonderful evening of music and memories, it was an experience we will not forget.

Posted by krisp 2010-11-23 14:32:43.

Worth EVERY Penny

Mellencamp fans will love this show. Not the pop-radio ones, but the ones that love John's words. He made us listen to the words. Made us laugh, and think. THEN HE ROCKED OUR ASSES OFF! He even looked like he had a great time! But John, I get the suit to frame the music in time, but it was funny to see those pants ****in' you off. Thanks for inviting us out for some time with a legend, and a true American hero!

Posted by cml185 2010-11-19 20:47:41.

 
 

 

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