Saskatoon Star Phoenix: Saskatoon A Nice Fit For Mellencamp
Cam Fuller, The StarPhoenix
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2008
There's no such thing, of course, but if there ever were SASK-Aid, there'd be no
more perfect headliner than John Mellencamp.
He was born in a small town, and we live in a small town (or right next to a
bunch of them), so the connection is natural. Not only that, but the Indianan's
liberal leanings are hardly out of place in T. C. Douglas country. Then there's
his temerity to question authority which makes the Farm-Aid co-founder the kind
of heroic outsider we love to love.
Mellencamp brought his band, his humanistic message and almost 30 years of songs
(yikes!) to Credit Union Centre on Tuesday night.
The understated opening moment, with the band strolling onto the stage, gave no
hint of what was to follow: a breathtaking, non-stop run-through of some massive
hits -- Pink Houses, Paper In Fire, I'm Not Running Anymore, Lonely Old Night
and Check It Out. Half an hour elapsed before Mellencamp had to say a word.
When he did, he surprised us by saying that Saskatoon means more to him than we
know. The city has become a charm because Mellencamp asked his wife early in
their relationship if they'd still be together by Saskatoon. "Whenever we have a
long journey ahead of us I look at her and say 'think we'll make it to
Saskatoon?' '' Awww.
Mellencamp introduced a couple of new songs off his next album in a solo
acoustic set, including A Ride Back Home (Hey Jesus) and Young Without Lovers.
That's also when he did Small Town with video of our own li'l Toontown on the
If he lived in a boring country, or one less prone to outrageous
self-contradiction, Mellencamp's career may have been a short one. But a nation
that loves its soldiers and hates its wars provides no lack of material. For the
same reason, this Poet Laureate of the Interstate can trace a straight line from
his earliest songs about the dark side of the American dream to his newest ones,
about the country he wishes America would smarten up and turn in to. The theme
is consistent without being repetitive, somehow, and that's certainly part of
After the solo stuff, the contrast was huge when the band snuck back in and
kicked the straw out of the farming lament Rain on the Scarecrow, making it
incredibly big and booming.
And, as the DJ said, the hits just kept on coming: Human Wheels, Crumblin' Down,
R.O.C.K in the U.S.A., Jack and Diane, Authority Song.
Tom Cochrane and Red Rider opened the show with an hour-long set of familiar
favorites. Cochrane's assignment was a tough one -- get people over 40 to act
like they're not attached to their chairs with two-sided carpet tape.
But Cochrane and his band of four including longtime fretboard genius Kenny
Greer made the job look almost easy.
After Sinking Like a Sunset and Big League, people started standing. By White
Hot -- a dramatic effort with searing trills by Greer -- chairs had been
abandoned. And much to Cochrane's delight, most of place was on its feet for
Life is a Highway.
An encore was demanded and given with Boy Inside the Man, featuring a big,
full-blown rock show outro. Cochrane was so pleased he did a scissor kick, and
speaking of middle age, it was nice to see someone with an even worse vertical
Never one to lack confidence, Cochrane dared to ask "How many of you guys are
here to see Tom Cochrane?'' -- and to tell any critics in the house to take note
of the response. For the record, Tom, more than a few cheered in response.
Read the Saskatton Star Phoenix article online.