Entertainment Focus: Hammersmith Apollo Concert Review

Entertainment Focus By Justin Ng

John MellencampHe might have lost the Cougar back in the 90s but John Mellencamp certainly hasn't lost any of the fire and swagger he's known for. And that's just how he opened the night with Authority Song and its twangy guitar parts, a nostalgic trip down to 1983 before bringing us back to the present with more recent material with new album track No One Cares About Me and earlier tracks Death Letter and John Cockers.

There's a real authoritative stamp on The West End that proves the new material is brimming with skulking Bluesy overtones and a real nod to Bob Dylan and a statement on America. Indeed Mellencamp's latest material sees him treading more of that blues and folky material, and shedding the Bruce Springsteen-like material he once played.

But that's not to say he's excluded any of the songs that made him famous from his set. Rather they're done in much more intimate fashion solo on acoustic. Check It Out earns a big clapalong and its that 80s defining era of his that really gets the audience going. And he's certainly not one to shy away from fans, jokingly admonishing an impatient girl to be patient after she'd screamed out a song request. its not long before we hear Cherry Bomb delivered beautifully on acoustic but its the audience who really hold this song aloft with their singalong accompanying the bandless Mellencamp.

There are more amusing anecdotes about angry young men, whom he once thought he was but realized he was just a "prick" and warned the youngsters in the crowd of the old men as there's "nothing worse than a dangerous old man" cueing nicely into Don't Need This Body.

Jack And Diane and Jackie Brown receive great singalongs and claps but the story behind Longest Day (his time spent with his grandmother during her dying days) is pure gold and we learn his grandmother's nickname for him - "buddy". Its a nice insight into both the song and Mellencamp, showing he's a dab hand at delivering punchlines.

Its Mellencamp in pure storytelling mode as we hear Small Town, with Mellencamp again sans band. It earns the biggest clapalong of the night and rightly so, the song really striking a chord with the audience here as longtime violin player (ok fiddle player) Mirian Sturm plays a beautiful ending melody with the accordion player.

The final songs in the set here on really reach a Rocking crescendo, a real build up from Rain On The Scarecrow, through Paper In Fire and Crumblin' Down, all delivered with a real thump and authority about them as if to say he'd been saving his best for last.

Of course the finale ends with his biggest and most recognised hit, R.O.C.K. in The USA, in real rocking fashion and giving fans who'd missed Mellencamp's presence here on these shores a real sending off to finish his show. Its a stark contrast to his earlier Bluesy disguise in the early parts of the set but its undeniably Mellencamp as he proves he's still a genuinely entertaining performer.

John Mellencamp delivered a great set of 21 songs that lasted close to 2 hours with the bulk of the material from his 80s period (which pleased this reviewer greatly). It was also nice to hear some of the new material mixed in and proving that Mellencamp has lost none of his fire. The intimate delivery for some of the biggest hits certainly made tonight a special event. Lets hope its not another 19 years before he's back on these shores again.


1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares About Me
3. Death Letter
4. John Cockers
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time To Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don't Need This Body
11. Easter Eve
12. Jack & Diane
13. Jackie Brown
14. Longest Days
15. Small Town
16. Rain on the Scarecrow
17. Paper in Fire
18. Crumblin' Down
19. If I Die Sudden
20. Pink Houses
21. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.