National Rock Review:

By Erich Morse - National Rock Review

Country, blues, and rock are all in John Mellencamp’s arsenal. Also, having a personality and not letting a show be cancelled makes for a great artist as well.

Republic Records artist John Mellencamp has seen name changes, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, numerous albums, and many, many hits. On this night in Toledo, Mr. Mellencamp has brought an opening act that can be considered part of music royalty as well, Carlene Carter. The patrons of the Stranahan Theater & Great Hall were in store for a show that would leave none disappointed.

Carlene Carter, a Rounder Records’ artist, was a witty and feisty one-woman show. Not only being a gifted singer, she played both the six string beast and tamed the ivory of the majestic piano as well during her set. In between songs, she talked about how she was the step daughter of one Mr. Johnny Cash, and granddaughter to the one and only “Mother” Maybelle Carter of the original Carter Family. She mentioned a fateful helicopter landing and expressed regret for her friend, Kris Kristofferson, not being able to join her for a song in Toledo this night.

She sung songs with personal ties and with commercial success through out her career on the well-lit Stranahan stage. She was able to captivate the audience with a beautiful voice, the well-timed borderline raunchy story, and a small sidebar on where a certain see through miniskirt she made famous happened to now reside. Carlene was charming, down to earth in her attitude, and showed why the Carter name is still synonymous with legendary music. Ms. Carter will be out with John Mellencamp until early November. Listen to her most recent album, Carter Girl, on Amazon.

After Ms. Carter’s forty-five minute, an excited energy started to build as the main attraction was about to begin. Mr. Mellencamp certainly had his own large shoes to fill. It should be noted that Mellencamp was quite sick this night and at one point had to consider cancelling or rescheduling the show. But as he told the crowd, it would be a shame to cave to some coughing and we would have to pardon him blowing nose.

During the course of the night, the flavors of country, blues, and rock were all played with gusto and a level of master artisan that can only be acquired after many a night on the road. His lineup for this tour is Mike Wanchic (guitars), Andy York (guitars), Miriam Sturm (violin), Dane Clark (drums), John Gunnell (bass), and Troye Kinnett (keyboards). There were different guitars, different bass, and even a completely different drum kit played during the evening.

Not only are his bandmates talented, they play well together accompanying Mellencamp who still has the energy and voice that has been his signature since the late 70s. His stage show which lacked special effects and extra thrills, focused on music sprinkled with stories about family, leading to a much-anticipated sing along of “Jack And Diane.”

While Mellencamp has in the past been described as “cantankerous, this night he was the master of ceremonies, a stand up comedian, a story-teller, and a rocker with only a tad touch of stubbornness to be anything other than himself on stage. The Seymour, Indiana native gave a wonderful all around performance that even the flu couldn’t deny.

John Mellencamp’s setlist included “Lawless Times,” “Troubled Man,” “Minutes To Memories,” “Small Town,” “Stones In My Passway,” “Pop Singer,” “The Isolation Of Mister,” “Check It Out,” “Longest Days,” “Jack And Diane,” “Full Catastrophe Of Life,” “Scarecrow,” “Paper In Fire,” “Crumbling Down,” “Authority Song,” “Pink Houses,” and “Cherry Bomb.”

If you happen to see the Plain Spoken Tour, we’d love to hear your opinions or see your photo on our Facebook or Twitter feed. We highly recommend seeing the show if it happens to play close to you before the final leg is over.