Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech's Jones AT&T Stadium Show Review

By William Kerns

Even taking into consideration the masses who were busy leaving the venue just a few songs into Bob Dylan's headlining set - a fact that I'll explore later - it is impossible to find much fault with the concert by Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson at Texas Tech's Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.

A near-sellout crowd was treated to memorable performances by icons who have proven to be indefatigable for decades, with each taking advantage of their own colossal bands while providing a glimpse of musical souls.

Keeping in mind that Mellencamp is the baby within this trio at age 57, there is little more than a Farm Aid connection tying the three men together.

Thus, one might assume a potential risk in expecting fans of one musician to equally appreciate the two others.

And yet the billing worked - perhaps because Dylan, 68, and Nelson, 76, are linked by a shared legendary status.

That said, it was still Mellencamp who stuck a syringe in this show's rump and delivered an injection of adrenaline that jettisoned fans out of their seats for at least a full hour.

Risks paid off from the beginning. Even the weather played nice, with an early cool breeze keeping an outdoor show in West Texas in August from becoming a sauna with cool tunes.

The staging was magnificent, and the sound was crystal from start to finish. Local promoter Gary Boren, i.e., Llano Estacado Music, stated a few days earlier that he had invested an additional $10,000 to the sound system already being carried by the touring Bob Dylan Show.

No one can claim it didn't make a difference in the result.

Thirty minutes later, rock 'n' roll arrived in the guise of John Mellencamp and his band, one of the tightest ensembles to be found on any concert stage.

He hasn't been forced to use that silly John Cougar moniker that his manager hung on him since 1979, yet there remains a cat-like intensity, a sense of barely disguised rebellion, in many of his numbers.

At 7:25 p.m., he said, "You ready to get started? Somebody count to four" - and with a 1, 2, 3 and 4, he shot into "Pink Houses," reflecting his own disappointment with the American dream, and gave the crowd its first glimpse of wall-of-sound guitars.

Amplified violin and accordion add flavor as he sang "Paper in Fire" and "My Aeroplane."

He bravely dedicated the beautiful, if stark, "Don't Need This Body" as "a song for my generation; you know who you are," musically explaining why growing old "ain't for cowards."

But Mellencamp is not slowing down at all.
Indeed, knowing which the crowd would choose, he gave it the option between old and new. And with the band away, he delivered memories-packed "Cherry Bomb" as a solo.

The police subdued at least three individuals during Mellencamp's set, and the entertainer did appear to become a bit perturbed. That didn't stop him from providing smooth vocals on new tune "Save Some Time to Dream" - and ad-libbing the lyrics "My wife was 13 when I wrote this song" while he and the band played a rousing version of "Small Town."

No doubt some Mellencamp fans were upset that he would not sing "Jack and Diane" or "Hurts So Good," but those tunes rarely ease their way onto his set lists these days.

Perhaps he feels he's in a different place musically.

Luckily, his set still builds to a loud, rocking crescendo thanks to his own Farm Aid theme, "Rain on the Scarecrow," and a powerful, kick-butt reminder to stand clear when the walls come "Crumblin' Down" that lured diehard fans to share in a sing-along chorus.

These two songs struck me as highlights Saturday, although Mellencamp would stick around long enough to showcase "Troubled Land" and the much older "Authority Song."

The latter arrived with a heavy coating of irony, considering the minor disturbances during Mellencamp's set.

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