The Dallas Observer: The Hoosier State’s Patron Saint, John Mellencamp, Blessed Grand Prairie on Wednesday Night

The Dallas Observer By Andrew Sherman 

There are still some performers who need no introduction, and John Mellencamp is definitely one of them. But just in case you need a refresher, he’s been a radio mainstay since 1979, with 22 songs having reached the charts. He’s a Grammy winner as well as a cofounder of Farm Aid with Willie Nelson, and he's been a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since 2008. 

The night kicked off at Texas Trust CU Theatre in Grand Prairie with a 30-minute film montage featuring some of Mellencamp’s favorite classic movies clips in conjunction with the tour’s sponsor, Turner Classic Movies. There were even four life-size classic movie characters on stage (including Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire) in the form of 3D mannequins, like wooden versions of wax figures — which may have been a bit creepy. Although these were all great scenes, the crowd was there for Mellencamp and started cheering for him. He finally arrived to flashing lights and sirens.

He started his set with "John Cockers" from 2008, one of his lesser-known numbers. After a few songs, including "Small Town," Mellencamp addressed the crowd saying, “I came out from Indiana. I'm gonna play some songs for you tonight. Some songs you know, some songs you don’t know, some songs you can dance to and some songs you can sing to. Let’s all try to have a good time together.”

Mellencamp was true to his word, playing a pretty even split of his classic hits and newer songs that were familiar to his die-hard fans. 

One of the most touching moments of the night was when he performed an acoustic track from his forthcoming LP. Titled "The Eyes of Portland," the song is a sad statement on the rate of nationwide homelessness. Mellencamp hasn’t lost a beat in his songwriting chops. This one hit the crowd intensely. 

After a chunk of lively, full-band tunes, Mellencamp came out alone with his acoustic guitar and gave what he called a public service announcement. 

“This is the acoustic part of the set. If you’re one of the people screaming in the quiet parts before, please go outside," he said. "This is the quiet part, so keep your fucking mouth shut.” Within seconds, a woman in the crowd yelled out “John!” To which he replied, “What did I just fucking say? But thank you.”

Mellencamp showed that he ultimately is still an engaging and highly entertaining performer even at 71. He was having a blast on stage, smoking and cussing along with some very emotional moments. His voice may have had a touch more gravel to it, almost Tom Waits-esque at times, but it just added to the soul and the down-home, rootsy vibe that is Mellencamp’s signature sound.

Wednesday night's show made it clear Mellencamp is a true music legend, and from the sound of it, one that will continue will be making music for a long time to come.