John Mellencamp: The American Troubador Comes to Canada

Suite101 Blog By Harley Pruett

John Mellencamp may not always have his finger on the pulse of pop culture, but no other artist is more in tune with the hardships facing working class people, and no artist is more outspoken about the politics responsible.

The new record and tour are called, No Better Than This, and if you are hoping for a nostalgia tour you are in for disappointment. John Mellencamp stays in the trenches, so to speak. He lives in rural Indiana -he has all his life- where he witnesses first hand the toll high unemployment rates, war and unfettered banking regulations takes on the working poor. He understands better than any other singer/songwriter why profiting on a 'best hits' tour would be a slap in the face to the people he not only writes lyrics about, but lives with in his daily life. Instead he sings gritty songs about love and loss, death and living out broken dreams while struggling to find redemption in his government that falls short with every promise.

John Mellencamp takes America's unraveling personally, he has always been on the front line in the fight for the working class, and he is no stranger to the campaign to end injustice, co-founding Farm Aid and writing epic protest songs like Rain On the Scarecrow, and Pink Houses, to name a few. While new songs like Graceful Fall and Troubled Land may not have the radio playability of old classics like Cherry bomb or Hurts So Good, they serve as stalwart reminders about the fragility of human emotion and the false notion of a level playing field in the pursuit of the American dream.

Mellencamp will be in Toronto Feb 9-10 at Massey Hall, a beautiful venue that provides a warm and personal setting conducive to the message he brings with this tour which showcases his later catalog. Gravel voiced and armed with more poignant lyrics than ever, John plays an understated, mostly acoustic set of mellow brooding songs some fans might not be familiar with. When an old staple does make it into the rotation it is usually revamped with a slower country feel to it like the new renditions of Authority Song and Jack and Dianne.

Some fans might be disappointed, that's to be expected. I think it was Ricky Nelson who sang "you can't please everyone, so you've gotta please yourself". That reasoning rings truer with John Mellencamp than possibly any other artist. There has never been a songwriter less interested in royalties and more interested in being heard. He has always been fearless and stubborn and now at 59 as he enters the autumn of his years his courage and honesty have never been more prevalent. John Mellencamp is an American troubadour, a small town boy who has always used his celebrity to fight the good fight. He speaks out against what is wrong with America while at the same time embodying what makes her great, a living paradox as complex as the music he makes.