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The Oregonian: John Mellencamp Rocks Like a Legend Should
07.22.2015 -

Read the full review on The Oregonian / Oregon Live - Includes a large photo gallery

By Jeff Baker

This is how a classic rock legend gets it done in concert:

Start with a money's-worth opening act, Carlene Carter, a spirited member of the First Family of American music who can fire up an older audience with nothing but talent, sassy stories, acoustic guitar and piano.

Hire a crack six-piece band, men and women, black and white, and rehearse them until they're tight as a bass string.

Dress them like the professionals they are, in suits and dresses, and make sure they move in the country-bluegrass tradition: upstage for a solo, fall back for support, everybody forward at the big moments. Have them come out first and play you on, the way Merle Haggard and George Jones did it.

Start with a couple of your strongest new tunes that show you're still relevant, mix in a few hits early on, end with a roaring river of your best stuff, peak after peak until the crowd can't take it anymore. Leave them satisfied but wanting more. Encores are for amateurs. You've played 20 songs in two hours and given more than enough.

Pay close attention to everything: pacing, lighting, sound, presentation. It's about pride. You are a star. This is what you do. Own it.

John Mellencamp was completely in the pocket Tuesday night, locked down and in control of a flawless performance that had many in his audience stomping and dancing for the first time since Reagan was president. His heartland anthems retained their power and his populist appeal didn't lose its edge even when it was bathed in sentiment.

"Being sentimental is always good," Mellencamp said while introducing his closer, "Cherry Bomb," a song that sits in the same late-summery field of dreams as "Night Moves" by Bob Seger and "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen, his peers among the American rockers of a certain age. Mellencamp is 63, decades removed from his amazing string of top 10 singles but still punching out the chorus to "Authority Song" with the bravado of the 27-year-old he was when he wrote it.

"Where does our time go?" he asked in "Check It Out," an unanswered question in an evening full of them.

The first question was "Where has Carlene Carter been, and how can she still sound so good after all she's been through?" Carter is third-generation country royalty and proud of it, the daughter of June Carter Cash and granddaughter of Mother Maybelle, women she honored with a lovely "Me and the Wildwood Rose." Carter's career crashed after some lively country-rock albums but she's back in full voice, using her experience as a warm-up act on all 80 dates of Mellencamp's tour and embracing her family history in "Carter Girl," an album of traditional songs.

Mellencamp's first album in four years, "Plain Spoken," is in the tradition of his last two T Bone Burnett productions and right in his lyrical wheelhouse, the rough edges of the American dream. He started with "Lawless Times" and "Troubled Man" and immediately found the groove, no problem after months on the road. "Small Town" was the first crowd-pleaser; the Robert Johnson cover "Stones in My Passway" the first highlight with a slide guitar lead from Andy York and some James Brown dance moves from Mellencamp.

Violinist Miriam Sturm took a solo on "Human Wheels," one of Mellencamp's most poetic songs and a welcome addition to the setlist. "Jack and Diane" was an acoustic singalong. ("Hurts So Good," "Lonely Ol' Night" and "R.O.C.K" were absent -- Mellencamp is the rare artist with so many top 10 hits he can drop a few and nobody complains.)

Carter came back for a couple of songs from "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," the musical Mellencamp worked on for 15 years with Stephen King. One of them, "Tear This Cabin Down," was a showstopper. The musical opens in London this fall, Mellencamp said.

An accordion and fiddle overture signaled that the hammers were about to start falling: "Rain on the Scarecrow," Mellencamp's greatest song, burned gold and led straight in "Paper in Fire," "If I Die Sudden," "Crumbling Down," "Authority Song" (with a snatch of "Land of 1,000 Dances") and the inevitable "Pink Houses."

"If we've done any wrong, I hope that we're forgiven," Mellencamp sang in "Cherry Bomb." Nothing was wrong -- he made sure of it.

John Mellencamp's setlist:

"Lawless Times"
"Troubled Man"
"Minutes to Memories"
"Small Town"
"Stones in My Passway"
"Human Wheels"
"The Isolation of Mister"
"Check It Out"
"Longest Days"
"Jack and Diane"
"The Full Catrastophe"
"Away From This World"
"Tear This Cabin Down"
"Overture"
"Rain on the Scarecrow"
"Paper in Fire"
"If I Die Sudden"
"Crumbling Down"
"Authority Song"
"Pink Houses"

Read the full review on The Oregonian / Oregon Live - Includes a large photo gallery

By Jeff Baker

This is how a classic rock legend gets it done in concert:

Start with a money's-worth opening act, Carlene Carter, a spirited member of the First Family of American music who can fire up an older audience with nothing but talent, sassy stories, acoustic guitar and piano.

Hire a crack six-piece band, men and women, black and white, and rehearse them until they're tight as a bass string.

Dress them like the professionals they are, in suits and dresses, and make sure they move in the country-bluegrass tradition: upstage for a solo, fall back for support, everybody forward at the big moments. Have them come out first and play you on, the way Merle Haggard and George Jones did it.

Start with a couple of your strongest new tunes that show you're still relevant, mix in a few hits early on, end with a roaring river of your best stuff, peak after peak until the crowd can't take it anymore. Leave them satisfied but wanting more. Encores are for amateurs. You've played 20 songs in two hours and given more than enough.

Pay close attention to everything: pacing, lighting, sound, presentation. It's about pride. You are a star. This is what you do. Own it.

John Mellencamp was completely in the pocket Tuesday night, locked down and in control of a flawless performance that had many in his audience stomping and dancing for the first time since Reagan was president. His heartland anthems retained their power and his populist appeal didn't lose its edge even when it was bathed in sentiment.

"Being sentimental is always good," Mellencamp said while introducing his closer, "Cherry Bomb," a song that sits in the same late-summery field of dreams as "Night Moves" by Bob Seger and "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen, his peers among the American rockers of a certain age. Mellencamp is 63, decades removed from his amazing string of top 10 singles but still punching out the chorus to "Authority Song" with the bravado of the 27-year-old he was when he wrote it.

"Where does our time go?" he asked in "Check It Out," an unanswered question in an evening full of them.

The first question was "Where has Carlene Carter been, and how can she still sound so good after all she's been through?" Carter is third-generation country royalty and proud of it, the daughter of June Carter Cash and granddaughter of Mother Maybelle, women she honored with a lovely "Me and the Wildwood Rose." Carter's career crashed after some lively country-rock albums but she's back in full voice, using her experience as a warm-up act on all 80 dates of Mellencamp's tour and embracing her family history in "Carter Girl," an album of traditional songs.

Mellencamp's first album in four years, "Plain Spoken," is in the tradition of his last two T Bone Burnett productions and right in his lyrical wheelhouse, the rough edges of the American dream. He started with "Lawless Times" and "Troubled Man" and immediately found the groove, no problem after months on the road. "Small Town" was the first crowd-pleaser; the Robert Johnson cover "Stones in My Passway" the first highlight with a slide guitar lead from Andy York and some James Brown dance moves from Mellencamp.

Violinist Miriam Sturm took a solo on "Human Wheels," one of Mellencamp's most poetic songs and a welcome addition to the setlist. "Jack and Diane" was an acoustic singalong. ("Hurts So Good," "Lonely Ol' Night" and "R.O.C.K" were absent -- Mellencamp is the rare artist with so many top 10 hits he can drop a few and nobody complains.)

Carter came back for a couple of songs from "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," the musical Mellencamp worked on for 15 years with Stephen King. One of them, "Tear This Cabin Down," was a showstopper. The musical opens in London this fall, Mellencamp said.

An accordion and fiddle overture signaled that the hammers were about to start falling: "Rain on the Scarecrow," Mellencamp's greatest song, burned gold and led straight in "Paper in Fire," "If I Die Sudden," "Crumbling Down," "Authority Song" (with a snatch of "Land of 1,000 Dances") and the inevitable "Pink Houses."

"If we've done any wrong, I hope that we're forgiven," Mellencamp sang in "Cherry Bomb." Nothing was wrong -- he made sure of it.

John Mellencamp's setlist:

"Lawless Times"
"Troubled Man"
"Minutes to Memories"
"Small Town"
"Stones in My Passway"
"Human Wheels"
"The Isolation of Mister"
"Check It Out"
"Longest Days"
"Jack and Diane"
"The Full Catrastophe"
"Away From This World"
"Tear This Cabin Down"
"Overture"
"Rain on the Scarecrow"
"Paper in Fire"
"If I Die Sudden"
"Crumbling Down"
"Authority Song"
"Pink Houses"


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Perfect review!

The reviewer really got this right; the show was fabulous. John completely owned the house and the band were in lock-step with him. Thank you for an incredible evening. Please come back to PDX very soon.

Posted by spf1410 2015-07-24 04:57:37.

 
 

 

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