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Patriot Ledger Review: Dylan, Mellencamp, Nelson Hit McCoy
07.22.2009 - By Jay N. Miller - For The Patriot Ledger

PAWTUCKET — Fingers were crossed when 9,298 fans arrived at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium for the Bob Dylan concert Tuesday night, after a day of heavy rains.

“It never rains at McCoy,” said a hopeful Michael Gwynn, Pawtucket Red Sox vice president for sales and marketing.

That was nearly correct: Only the final two songs of Dylan’s encore were punctuated by rain. Aside from a little mist during John Mellencamp’s set, the crowd was able to enjoy a long night of music with no need for the slickers, ponchos and duck boots that passed for stylish attire.

Mellencamp’s hourlong set was superb from start to finish, even if some of his newer material shifts the mood considerably. Mellencamp wasted no time, opening with a fiddle-charged “Pink Houses” and seguing into a seriously potent “Paper in Fire” where his vocals sounded perfect.

Miriam Sturm’s fiddle, transposed with the guitars and accordion in Mellencamp’s backing sextet, gave “Check It Out” a gloriously soaring quality that seemed to enliven the whole ballpark.

Mellencamp shifted to an acoustic quartet format for his newer “Don’t Need This Body,” a sober look at growing older. Mellencamp, at 57 the kid on this tour, did a new tune, “Take Some Time to Dream,” on just acoustic guitar, and it is a moving, hope-filled sentiment. An acoustic-based, slowed-down take on “Small Town” uncovered new meanings in that familiar old hit.

Mellencamp’s entire band returned for a full-bore charge through “Rain on the Scarecrow,” but the gritty, pulsating “(Peace in This) Troubled Land” that followed was truly transcendent. That was a high point, but Mellencamp’s doing his newer, haunting “If I Die Sudden” stalled the momentum a bit. A blazing “Crumblin’ Down” and then a mass sing-along romp through “Authority Song” brought the set to a finish with the raw and raucous rock Mellencamp excels at.

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