“Life is short, even in its longest days,” John Mellencamp told a packed house during his concert Saturday night at the EnCana Events Centre.
And if life is indeed short, Mellencamp seems to certainly be living it to its fullest.
At the age of 60, Mellencamp put on an energy-filled show that the average 30 year old probably couldn’t, dancing around the stage like no one was watching and singing his heart out for two full hours.
It was, in short, an incredible performance.
Following the act of his Canadian opener, Cowboy Junkies, Mellencamp began the show with his 1983 hit, ‘Authority Song,’ sending the audience roaring to its feet from the get go.
After snapping photos of his opening songs, I took my seat near the stage surrounded by a crowd that was on average a couple of decades older than me. Thankfully I fit right in because I was raised through-and-through on the music of John (formerly Cougar) Mellencamp.
The stage set up was simple, but fitting, as it was reminiscent of Mellencamp’s Indiana roots, with a countrified backdrop and strings of multi-coloured light bulbs hanging overhead.
When he began the song ‘Death Letter,’ a violinist and accordion player joined Mellencamp on stage, and the ensemble was complete for that bluesy sound so linked to his music.
A Mellencamp classic can’t be a Mellencamp classic without the violin and accordion, both that came in very handy when he broke out his huge hit ‘Check It Out.’
As the air in the EnCana began to grow hotter and the crowd grew louder, Mellencamp brought down the energy with a four-song acoustic set.
Alone with his guitar in the spotlight, Mellencamp began to play the song many had come to hear – ‘Jack and Diane.’
The crowd belted out the lyrics along with him, practically drowning him out. After the first verse his fans began to sing the infamous chorus, “Oh yeah, life goes on.”
Unfortunately they sang it too soon, and Mellencamp began to laugh, saying, “Hold on! I’m not there yet!” to which the crowd responded with their own chorus of laughter.
It was probably the funniest moment I’ve ever seen at a concert.
Mellencamp followed up ‘Jack and Diane’ with ‘Jackie Brown’ and an acoustic version of ‘Small Town,’ then brought out his six band mates to continue with his electric set with the most upbeat music of the night, starting with ‘Scarecrow’ and ‘Paper In Fire.’
More people in the audience began to stand to dance along to the faster-paced hits, joining Mellencamp himself who grooved along the stage during instrumentals, showing off the dancing skills made memorable in his music videos.
When the song ‘Crumblin’ Down’ kicked off, I saw the crowd’s biggest response after Jack and Diane. Women were sloshing their beer cups and dancing in their seats or in the aisles while men put down their pride for a moment and joined them.
From that point on, there was no sitting back down.
For the final segment of the concert, Mellencamp revved things up with back-to-back top hits including ‘Pink Houses’ (my personal favourite) and ‘R.O.C.K. in the USA,’ finishing off the show with ‘Cherry Bomb.’
After two hours, it was over.
Flushed and sweaty, every person in the EnCana Events Centre rose to their feet, giving John Mellencamp a standing ovation for his performance.
As Mellencamp and his band took a bow across the stage, the crowd roared for more. Waving to all the sections of the audience, Mellencamp took the time to acknowledge the arena and the people in it for coming out for his second date on his cross-Canada No Better Than This tour.
There was no encore, however, which I heard a few people grumble about, mostly because Mellencamp didn’t play one of his biggest hits, ‘Hurts So Good.’ A member of EnCana told me he apparently chooses not to perform the song anymore. I’m sure that’s his right, but it was very disappointing to hear because that’s one of my favourite songs, which probably goes for many people there that night.
I could go and say not playing Hurts So Good hurt real bad, but that would be corny, right?
Overall it was a great show, albeit it started out a little slower than I expected, and the acoustic version of ‘Small Town’ wasn’t as upbeat as I had hoped to hear. I wanted to dance to it.
I was told on Sunday that a few people left halfway through, disappointed in the slower start and acoustic set, but when you consider his age and how long he has been doing this for, Mellencamp put on a fantastic performance complimented by an extremely talented band.
And I for one am glad that I will be able to tell my children someday that I got to see John Mellencamp in person.
What a legend.