Manhattan Beat Blog: John Mellencamp At The Beacon Theatre

Manhattan Beat Blog - By Charlie Crespo

John Mellencamp at the Beacon Theatre

Born in Seymour, Indiana, John Mellencamp formed his first band, Crepe Soul, at age 14 and later played in the local bands Trash, Snakepit Banana Barn and the Mason Brothers. Mellencamp came to New York City in the mid-1970s with the intention of studying painting if his music-career aspirations did not manifest. Reportedly unknown to Mellencamp, his manager in the late 1970s issued a debut album under the moniker Johnny Cougar, claiming that the public would not be interested in someone named Mellencamp. Gradually over the course of albums, Mellencamp changed his name to John Cougar and John Cougar Mellencamp before he reclaimed his birth name as his public name. Under the various names, Mellencamp had 22 Top 40 hits in the United States starting in 1982. He holds the record for the most tracks by a solo artist to hit number one on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with seven. He won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Performer in 1983, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. Mellencamp lives five miles outside of Bloomington, Indiana on the shores of Lake Monroe, but he also has a vacation home on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. In 2018, Mellencamp purchased a 1,800-square-foot loft in New York City for $2.3 million; he is using this space as an art studio. Mellencamp released his 24th and most recent studio album, a compilation of cover songs entitled Other People's Stuff, on December 7, 2018.

John Mellencamp headlined three nights at the Beacon Theatre, where his opening act was a mini-documentary of his journey through music and painting. Similarly, he peppered the concert with anecdotes about his inspirational grandmother and an early brush with the law after a night at a New York music club. The defining moments were his songs, however, and while his set was heavy on the hits, it also featured more recent and less heard songs. Backed by guitarists Mike Wanchic and Andy York, violinist Miriam Sturm, keyboardist/accordionist Troye Kinnett, bassist John Gunnell, and drummer Dane Clark, Mellencamp sang rollicking, bluesy rockers and homey folk-rockers with a rich, raspy voice. Impressively, several songs were powered not by guitars but by fiddle and accordion leads. The most intriguing moments may have been his solo acoustic interpretation of "Jack & Diane," completed with an audience choir, and his a cappella call-and-response interpretation of Louis Armstrong's "Long Gone (From Bowlin’ Green)," which he reprised at curtain call. Overall, "The John Mellencamp Show," as the tour is titled, was plainspoken heartland rock at its finest.

Lawless Times
Troubled Land
Minutes to Memories
Small Town
Stones in My Passway (Robert Johnson cover)
We Are the People
Lonely Ol' Night
Check It Out
Long Gone (From the Bowlin' Green) (Louis Armstrong cover)
Longest Days
Jack & Diane
The Full Catastrophe
Easy Target
Rain on the Scarecrow
Paper in Fire
Crumblin' Down
Authority Song / Land of 1000 Dances (Chris Kenner cover)
Pink Houses
Cherry Bomb
Long Gone (From the Bowlin' Green) (Louis Armstrong cover)