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The Boston Globe: Mellencamp Breathes New Life Into Old Hits
02.05.2011 - The Boston Globe By Sarah Rodman

Thanks to a sturdy back catalog, a sturdy back, and a whip-smart band, John Mellencamp can do the summer shed greatest hits shuffle as well, or better than, any of his peers.

But for his first small venue tour in over a decade, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer isn’t interested in going the jukebox route.

Instead, Thursday night at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Mellencamp took a leap of faith with his set list. The joy of that liberation was palpable, from the pep in his trademark slide-and-wriggle dance moves to the kinetic quality of the epic, emotionally satisfying two-hour-and-20-minute performance.

Even though his most recent album — the superb, stark, T Bone Burnett-produced “No Better Than This’’ — wasn’t a huge mainstream success, for the most part, the sold-out crowd happily took the leap with him. The 59-year-old Hoosier and his six-piece group — playing in several different configurations from solo acoustic to full electric band with fiddle and accordion — blended a healthy amount of the grittier, folk- and country-oriented material that has been his passion for the last decade with a clutch of his classic rock hits, retrofitted to match that down-home vibe.

That those changes hardly made the songs unrecognizable no doubt helped. (Although after a couple of long, hitless stretches the crowd did treat familiar riffs — the lilting violin of “Check It Out’’ for instance — like an oasis in the desert.)

From the opener, “Authority Song,’’ tricked out with a sweet rockabilly feel, to a nicely craggy solo take on “Small Town’’ to a swinging rendition of the little ditty about “Jack and Diane,’’ Mellencamp and his players did just enough to keep things fresh without taking the crowd out of the songs. One older song he didn’t mess with was the masterful family farm lament “Rain on the Scarecrow,’’ a dependable chiller, 25 years on.

The newer material visits familiar Mellencamp ground: mortality, poverty, disillusionment, man’s inhumanity to man. But there is something more emotionally grimy about songs like the hitching, bluesy death rattler “If I Die Sudden,’’ the growling, devastating skid row sketch “The West End,’’ and even the hopefully cautionary “Save Some Time to Dream’’ that feel like Mellencamp is truly getting to the heart of the matter as a songwriter.


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Revamped Setlist

Love the addition of John ****ers, Dehlia, AND She's So Tough to the setlist. Keep mixing it up, JM. I'm lovin' it.

Posted by sugarmarie_1980 2011-02-08 11:05:33.

Awesome show!

What a great show, I love the new music and the new twists on the old tunes. Please tell me you are coming back to this area soon!

Posted by Bayley123 2011-02-06 11:28:53.

fan4ever

I've been a fan for 30 years and it was my first time seeing the show. It was sort of a surprise because we didn't have the new music but we loved it! We thought some of the people down in the front should have been up where we were because they were so rude- sometimes talking so loudly while John was singing. They need to go back to school and learn some good old fashioned manners! ALL of the music was amazing, including the new songs like "Save Some Time for Dreaming", and "Delia" and "If I Die Sudden" ! We love the blues! We loved the twist on "Jack and Diane"! John Mellencamp's voice,stage presence, and his band was incredible. Thanks for all the good memories and new inspiration ! Your fans forever.

Posted by fan4ever 2011-02-06 08:38:40.

JOHN MELLENCAMP - She's So Tough - Lowell, Massachusetts - Memorial Aud. - Feb 3 2011 Here we go again John with an awesome sound...lyrics...& of course you!! Lots of success on your tour...Lots of Love & Peace from all of us...John...thanks for all the yrs. of memories! You keep gettin' better & better...wow! I simply love this song!! Your stage presence...the way you move! Please keep on rockin' for us!! Way to go John! Save Some Time To Dream & The West End...can't get enough!! Rest of album love it! Marlene

Posted by ashlypub 2011-02-05 13:47:14.

 
 

 

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