Melbourne's The Age: Less Cougar Than Cuddly, Just How Boomers Like It

John Mellencamp and Sheryl Crow
Rod Laver Arena, November 21
Andrew Murfett Reviewer

Since John Mellencamp sold out the Rod Laver Arena almost 20 years ago, the venue (Flinders Park) and the artist (Johnny Cougar) have changed their names.

Johnny Cougar’s Lonesome Jubilee album was a multi-platinum smash with five hit singles regularly playing on stations such as EON-FM and 3XY.

Although the artist is still releasing albums, they are more refined roots and folks-based efforts, such as this year’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom his 18th original studio album, which was produced by the acclaimed producer T-bon Burnett. And the most likely place to hear Mellencamp on the radio today is classic hits stations Gold-FM.

So Friday night’s show had an air of nostalgia about it. While eager to splice some new material in, Mellencamp was conscious the 11, 000-strong crowd – largely baby boomers – was craving singalongs from the 1980’s.

First up, Mellencamp played Paper in Fire, maybe his best pop song, with a cluster of similarly ages hits: Rain on the Scarecrow, Pink Houses and Jack and Diane.

His band was impressive, with a tightness and familiarity between the six-piece without a descent into autopilot mode.

The highlight, however, was when Mellencamp was on stage alone, with just his guitar.

He ventured back to his first hits, the 1978 No. 1 I Need A Lover and spoke candidly about politics and family. It was an old-fashioned performance, but satisfying.

Earlier, Sheryl Crow delivered as sturdy one-hour set of guitar-pop. Her lithe voice and pounding band proved a solid combination and a cover of Crowded House’s Mean to Me was a surprise treat.