Ottawa Citizen: R.O.C.K At The NAC
Ottawa Citizen By Lynn Saxberg
John Mellencamp made middle age look cool at the National Arts Centre on
Sunday. Sporting a neatly trimmed grey beard, the 59-year-old classic rocker
appeared fit and muscular in his tailored suit, while his voice had the power of
an avalanche in a gravel pit.
Backed by a top-notch band, the American singer-songwriter-guitarist delivered a
two-hour concert that involved storytelling and comedy, but was primarily
devoted to showcasing music from each stage of his career, especially the dark,
folky songs from the fine new album, No Better Than This, which was produced by
Mellencamp greeted the crowd with a promise to play “all kinds of songs,” but he
doled out the hits sparingly, kicking off with a low-key Authority Song and
including a warm, cozy version of Check it Out early in the show. The old
nugget, Cherry Bomb, was apparently a request from a fan Mellencamp met while
skating on the Rideau Canal earlier that day.
Mellencamp kept it interesting by varying the configuration of the band, from
solo to duo to full-band. Violin and accordion filled out the textures, and the
guitarists demonstrated an array of techniques. A standup bassist, keyboardist
and drummer rounded out the lineup, as required.
After a swing through country and blues that consisted of lesser-known tracks
like No One Cares About Me, Death Letter, John Cockers, The West End and Walk
Tall, the band members departed the stage and Mellencamp told a story about how
his dad always encouraged him to make time for fun. A tender solo version of
Save Some Time To Dream followed.
At one point, Mellencamp had a message for the young bucks of the world that
resonated with the boomer music fans who packed the house. In a nutshell, it
was: Don’t mess with old guys.
“I’m a dangerous old man,” Mellencamp half-snarled, scanning the legions of
grey-haired fans in front of him. “I’ve been flying around the world for the
last 59 years, and I see a lot more dangerous old men out there that I wouldn’t
want to cross.”
Despite the long stretches of unfamiliar songs, remarks like that endeared
Mellencamp to his audience. So did the stories about his grandmother and his
father. Plus, the band’s level of musicianship was so extraordinary that it was
a pleasure just to watch them.
With the full band back on stage, Mellencamp led them through a homestretch that
included the anthemic hits, Rain on the Scarecrow, Paper In Fire, What If I Came
Knocking, Little Pink Houses and R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A. Everyone sang along,
loud and proud, providing ample proof that you’re never too old to rock out.