Charleston, SC Low Country Today: John Mellencamp Rocks The Lowcountry

Veteran Singer Songwriter Plays Charleston For First Time
By Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer The Low Country Today

Thirty five years and still rocking.  Indiana’s favorite singer songwriter, John Mellencamp rocked the North Charleston Performing Arts Center Wednesday evening November 11th.  Just one month after turning 60 the poet laureate of the Midwest delighted a near sell out crowd, marking his first ever appearance in the low country.  Faithful fans couldn’t have been any more delighted as Mellencamp took the audience on a two hour journey down a long and winding musical career.
Forgoing an opening act, Mr. Mellencamp entertained the early attendees with a 50 minute documentary that was shot in 8mm.  The montage recalled the past year of Mellencamp’s trek across the country and recording sessions for his latest release, ‘No Better Than This’.   Movie highlights included Mellencamp's visit to historic Sun Studios in Memphis, a historic black Baptist church in Savannah where he not only laid down tracks but allowed himself to be baptized.  Additional footage covered his performance at the yearly Farm Aid concerts.
When Mellencamp and his back up band took the stage, the crowd were primed for some back woods roadhouse type of rock n' roll.  Throughout the night Mellencamp's early influences kept creeping to the surface. Shades of James Brown, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash easily invade Mellencamp's style.  During the film presentation the videographer recounted how one of Cash's band mates remarked that Mellencamp was one of his generations best songwriters, only to have John grimace that the quote wasn't recorded for posterity.
For over three decades Mellencamp fans have known the John writes music for the everyday common man, from the farmer to the factory worker.  His words reflect grass roots America.  After opening with 'Authority Song' and  a few folksy gospel inspired numbers Mellencamp got the audience pumped during 'I Ain't Got No Friends', 'Crumblin' Down', and 'Walk Tall'.  The crowd joined him later for a rousing version of 'Rain On the Scarecrow'.

With the master in full control he offered up recognizable 80's and 90's radio hits including 'Small Town', 'R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.', 'Paper and Fire', 'Key West Intermezzo', 'Pink Houses', ' and 'Cherry Bomb'. During a more solemn segment, Mellencamp sat center stage with just an acoustic guitar and offered up raw renditions of 'Jackie Brown' and 'Jack & Diane'. 

Mellencamp supports himself with some of the best musicians in the industry including longtime friend Mike Wanchic on guitar who has been with the rocker for 40 years.  Fellow band mates include Dane Clark on drums, John Gunnell on bass, Miriam Strum on violin, keyboard player Troye Kinnett, and former Jason & the Scorchers guitarist Andy York on lead. 

Judging from the crowd reaction before, during, and after the show, Mellencamp's debut in the low country was a well worth the wait for baby boomers and music lovers alike.  Mellencamp is akin to a fine wine, he apparently gets better with age. His voice and his persona still resonate with blue collar America.

In the 'holy city of Charleston' a rock n' roll revival such that Mr. Mellencamp performed is always welcome.  A native of Bloomington, Indiana and a resident around Savannah, one can only hope Mellencamp will make Charleston a regular stop on future tours.