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Bloomington Herald Times: Mellencamp Shows He Can Still Rock
02.05.2015 - By Marcela Creps  Herald Times
The near capacity crowd at the Indiana University Auditorium hoped for — and received — a mix of old and new music when Indiana’s own John Mellencamp took to the stage Tuesday night.

Opening with two songs from his latest album, “Plain Spoken,” Mellencamp really got the crowd when he chose “Small Town” as his third song.

Mellencamp’s voice is a little more gravely, but it is strong and transported audiences back to the time the music was new to the airwaves. Much like a congregation at a Catholic Mass, the crowd was up and down in their seats during the show. The crowd stood for Mellencamp’s older hits but sat down for newer tunes.

Particularly stunning was his performance of “The Full Catastrophe” from his 1996 album, “Mr. Happy Go Lucky.” Singing with piano accompaniment, Mellencamp’s voice soared as he stood spotlighted in the center of the stage.

Audience members were also thrilled when Mellencamp did his 1982 hit, “Jack and Diane” — playing guitar solo as he belted out the familiar tune.

Of course, many times Mellencamp gave up the microphone in favor of the audience, which was eager to sing its own favorite tunes. The crowd was particularly excited when Mellencamp sang “The Authority Song,” from 1983’s “Uh-huh” album.

During the show, Mellencamp did a little talking with the audience. He admitted that he always laughs when he performs “Jack and Diane,” because “I know what I was doing when I wrote it.” He prefaced “Longest Days” by relaying the advice he heard growing up to “keep your eyes down, your mouth shut and eat your eggs.”

Opening act Carlene Carter joined Mellencamp when he performed two songs from “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” the musical he wrote with horror author Stephen King. Following an instrumental interlude of samplers taken from Mellencamp’s music, he returned to the stage, having shed his jacket for “Rain on the Scarecrow.”

Carter was a good choice to open for Mellencamp. The daughter of June Carter Cash and her first husband, Carl Smith, she mainly performed solo for her 40-minute set. For two songs, she was joined by her husband, Joe Breen. She interspersed the music with tales of her mother and grandmother. But the constant interruptions throughout her set by ushers showing late arrivers to their seats was annoying. Carter deserved more respect than that.

It was good to see Mellencamp, a Hoosier native, is using talented people with Indiana ties for his band — a point he made when introducing the band. The crowd roared approval when he introduced longtime guitarist Mike Wanchic. He also recognized violinist Miriam Sturm, an IU grad, and drummer Dane Clark from Anderson.

With two nearly sold out shows in Bloomington, it’s clear Mellencamp can still pull in a crowd.

Now 63, Mellencamp proves that some things improve with age. He still struts around the stage and runs his fingers through his still-full head of hair.

His performance was a definite crowd pleaser, and he seemed pleased with the audience response.

During his performance of “Check It Out,” Mellencamp seemed to have a sly grin on his face — an indication that he had a good time, too.


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