Dallas Morning News: Mellencamp Delivers Seemless Set

Dallas Morning News - By Joy Tipping

With a catalog spanning 35 years, it’s got to be hard for John Mellencamp to keep his tour audiences happy all those hit songs, only two hours or so to get them in.

At Verizon Theater on Friday night, Mellencamp gloriously proved that not only is he one of America’s troubadours an incredible singer songwriter and guitarist, he’s also a master at putting together a set. His program of nearly two dozen songs seamlessly argued sequed between his huge hits – working man anthems like “ROCK in The USA,” “Small Town” and “Aint’ That America” ["Pink Houses"] – and newer material that’s more rock-blues oriented then scream your lungs out rock.

The tone was beautifully set by the “opening act,” a documentary chronicling the making of his 2010 CD No Better Than This. The album was produced by T Bone Burnett and recorded on tour in legendary spots such as Memphis’ Sun Studio and the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where the legendary blues pioneer Robert Johnson put down tracks. Traveling through Waylon Jennings’ hometown of Littlefield the documentarians call it a “Texas Pompeii,” deserted,” spooky and thrilling,” a phrase that could also describe much of No Better Than This.

From the CD, he sang the reflective and softly stunning “Save Some Time To Dream,” along with the gorgeously sorrowful “The West End” and “No One Cares About Me.”
Other standouts included the concert-opening “Authority Song,” and almost Texas-swinging take on “Jack & Diane; crowd favorite “Cherry Bomb,” which quickly turned into a sing-along love-fest ; and blistering, raw versions of “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “If I Die Sudden.”

At 59, Mellencamp is nowhere near done with his musical explorations. It was announced Friday that his musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, written with horror master Stephen King, will premiere in Atlanta in April 20112 as a tryout for Broadway. Now there’s something spooky and thrilling to look forward to.