Vancouver Sun: Mellencamp Mixes Politics And Poignancy At Vancouver Show
Amy O'Brian, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2008
VANCOUVER - The timing for John Mellencamp's cross-Canada tour could not have
Not only is the politically outspoken rocker on the Republican blacklist for
requesting his songs stop being played at rallies for presidential hopeful John
McCain (making him even more of a hero to most of his Canadian fans).
He's being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in less than a month.
John Mellencamp performs during a concert at the Pacific Coliseum.
Richard Lam/Vancouver Sun
And even though it's been more than 20 years since they were recorded, hits such
as Pink Houses and Check it Out are just as relevant as they were when they were
at the top of the charts.
Physical proof of Mellencamp's relevancy could be found Monday night at the
Pacific Coliseum, where women in their 20s danced and sang alongside men in
their 40s. Everyone knew the words to the big hits and pretty much everyone
cheered with each jab Mellencamp took at President George W. Bush or his fellow
Not one to pass up an opportunity to make a political statement, Mellencamp
opened his set with the surprisingly feel-good ode to broken American dreams,
Pink Houses. Showing scenes from the film Easy Rider - which pits the left
against the right - Mellencamp clearly illustrated the fact that the current
political divide in the United States is nothing new.
The 50-something rocker also drove home the point that many of the United
States' racial and social ills still exist with his new song, Jena, which is
about the racial strife in Jena, Louisiana, where white students hung nooses in
a tree a few years ago to send a message to the black students. The stirring
song was one of several new songs Mellencamp played from his soon-to-be-released
After working up the crowd with hits from his Cougar days such as Paper in Fire
and Lonely Ol' Night, Mellencamp's six-piece band took a break from the stage
allowing the star of the night to play some of his lesser-known and new material
on his own.
Watching and listening to him up there alone was impressive. His voice is still
raspy and fantastic. He has a bulldog-like fighter quality that is a joy to
watch. And he doesn't look haggard or spent. He looks as though he might keep
doing this for another 20 years.
When his band re-joined him, things got louder and the crowd ramped up its
One woman jumped on the stage and swayed drunkenly as she tried to hug the star.
He was courteous and polite and the woman was escorted away.
Two bras were tossed on the stage and one young woman flashed her breasts during
the massive Crumblin' Down sing-along.
Then, during Mellencamp's goofy radio hit, R.O.C.K. in the USA, the stocky star
took a cautious fall backwards into the audience. It was a superb of-the-people
moment from a for-the-people rock star.
Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane opened the show with a one-hour set that was packed
with FM-radio hits such as Big League, No Regrets and of course, Life is a
Highway. He sounded great and looked as though he was ecstatic to be there. And
he even got to play an encore, which is a privilege that not many opening acts
The entire show was perfect for the Coliseum, which is celebrating its 40th
anniversary this year. Mellencamp remembered playing there back in 1988, when a
fist-fight broke out during the first song. And the arena has a surprising
degree of intimacy when compared to GM Place.
Plus, the Coliseum has the added bonus of being close to Highway 1, meaning many
of the people in the audience had quicker access to home, where they would get
just a few hours sleep before heading off to their jobs in the morning.
Mellencamp would be proud.
Read the Vancouver Sun article online.