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Hartford Courant: John Mellencamp Takes Gritty Trip To Heartland At Palace Theater
02.05.2011 - Hartford Courant By Thomas Kintner

John Mellencamp has been a voice of the American heartland for more than three decades, a rugged accountant of its glories and discontents. His show Friday at the Palace Theater in Waterbury was a rousing journey through the territory he has covered over the years, a forceful reminder of his music's strength and flexibility.

Opening the show with a straightforward rock quartet as support, Mellencamp churned out the sturdy rumble of "The Authority Song," the haggard edge of his voice providing the tune a formidable anchor. The raw-edged melodic quality of his singing flowed across "No one Cares About Me," and forged an earthy cry to prod "Death Letter" as his band filled out to its full six-piece strength for a blues-lined backdrop colored by Andy York's resonator steel guitar twang.

Mellencamp gritted out lyrics in a near-croak alongside the measured blues rumble of "John Cockers," and swayed coolly across the face of "Check it Out," a billowing accordion line gilding the sound behind him. The set list favored music with substance, spinning outcries against social injustice in the rough-hewn "The West End" and a solo acoustic turn by Mellencamp on the mellow, somber "Jackie Brown."

Mellencamp's last two albums (including one last year that was the subject of an hour-long documentary that opened the program) have veered toward stripped-down music under the production stewardship of T Bone Burnett, material that blossomed in the treatments they received in a live setting. Mellencamp's approach to "Don't Need This Body" was methodical while fiddler Miriam Sturm colored its edges and York chipped in a fluid electric moan. Sturm's sawing made for lively dressing on "Right Behind Me," which showed how far Mellencamp has branched out from his days in the mainstream in everything from the old-timey tale-spinning that preceded it to the relaxed roots gait of the song itself.

The show took its share of pleasant diversions from the 59-year-old Indiana native's considerable roster of hits, easing through the sober "Longest Days" and the banjo-lined, storytelling-meets-sway number "Easter Eve." The tail of the show was built around a stoutly rendered parade of favorites, including an offering of "Jack & Diane" freshened up with a roomy, organic acoustic palette. After a long run of finesse, the pile-driver rock of "Rain on the Scarecrow" and "Paper in Fire" as propelled by drummer Dane Clark felt like departures rather than the baseline around which Mellencamp's career was built.

Stirring romps through past songs including "The Real Life and "What if I Came Knocking" gave way to equally insistent recent fare such as the bounding "No Better Than This," all sewn together by Mellencamp's sharp, elastic band. Its fluid sound powered an expansive "Pink Houses," its throb defined by York on resonator guitar and a hearty swirl of fiddle and accordion. The show eased past the two hour mark as Mellencamp called it a night by kicking the dance party rock of "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." into gear, its groove as flavorful as it was infectious.

John Mellencamp's Friday set list: "Authority Song," "No one Cares About Me," "Death Letter," "John Cockers," "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," "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."


Love The Setlist

Please bring back "She's So Tough" somewhere in your setlist. It was all the buzz after you played it in Lowell. I love seeing John ****ers included on this leg of tour. Love that song!

Posted by sugarmarie_1980 2011-02-08 11:01:02.


Sooo happy to be able to show my support & respect for a man who says it like it is! I truly have enjoyed the long journey with you! On the way some twists & turns...Thanks for your all your new songs... for being gutsy...and for some dancin'! Oh La La lol. Hey John keep dancin' do it well! Love & Peace filled with Joy! Marlene

Posted by ashlypub 2011-02-06 17:16:34.

Loved the show

My husband and I loved the show. From the movie to the length of the show it was Awesome. Love the new and old stuff. Debbie and Greg

Posted by debmil1957 2011-02-06 11:39:35.





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