Australia's Herald Sun Extra: Rod Laver Concert Review

Music - John Mellencamp
Where: Rod Laver Arena, Friday
Reviewer: Neala Johnson

For a while there, it didn’t feel as if we were in Melbourne any more. Toto.

To the strains of Pink Houses, we were whisked away to Indiana – as good a place as any, given it’s the state John Mellencamp calls home – such was the Americana seeping off the stage, out of the songs, and through the performing style of Mellencamp and his six-piece band.

Something – maybe 57-year-old Mellencamp’s tendency to connect with his band more than his audience – didn’t feel right. But during Check It Out, it clicked: Mellencamps songs are iconic enough to do all the talking, and performing, for him .

Of course, Mellencamp then ditched the band for a solo acoustic, segment, and began yakkin’ his head off.

Not surprisingly to anyone who’s dipped into his music over 32 years of released albums, the man can tell a story.

The rocker, who found fame in Australia before any other country, hasn’t forgotten our dedication, either: “I’ve gotta play this song, ‘cos without it, I wouldn’t be here,” Mellencamp said. “I haven’t’ played it in 15 years. I won’t play all of it…”

And he launched into 1979’s I Need A Lover, which probably makes him cringe these days, but hey, look what it laid the foundations for.

Part way through Small Town he incongruously declared: “My wife was only 13 years old when I wrote this song”. He was either bragging or realizing the absurdity of it all.

The opening drums of Scarecrow took the show over the top, with two songs from his new album Life Death Love and FreedomTroubled Land and the fantastically bluesy grind, groove and growl of If I Die Sudden – mixing more than ably with some of his ‘80s and ‘90s hits: R.O.C.K in the USA, Love and Happiness and Jack and Diane.

In the end, a perfectly selected, weighted and delivered set from an undeniable rock legend.