New York Post: Reaping What He Shows


July 12, 2008

After years of making hit music that often didn't get the respect it deserved, John Mellencamp has become one of the eloquent elder statesmen of American rock.

At his Jones Beach one-night stand, the newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was totally at ease in his skin.

J.M. rocked harder than a 56-year-old grandfather with a bad ticker should - and he treated fans with total respect.

That was evident in how balanced his set was and how it was sequenced to connect the dots between characters such as Jack and Diane and the new faces from his upcoming CD release, "Life, Death, Love and Freedom."

I've never seen Mellencamp play a bad concert, but this seaside show ranks as one of the great gigs. It was a no-frills rock concert in which the man and his band were the fireworks.

Considering the new record isn't due to hit stores until Tuesday, it was surprising how hotly received the new tunes were with the audience.

When he played the new country-spirited "A Ride Back Home" - wherein Johnny M. hitches a ride with Jesus - his voice took on a Merle Haggard twang. Then, with a bold tom-tom drum base that conjured Sun Records' rockabilly, he and the band raved through another new one, "My Sweet Love." Although the tunes are totally different in feel and sound, they express the same kind of introspective look at life.

Then there were songs of politics and prejudice such as the oldie "Rain on the Scarecrow" and the new "Jena," and the rebel music such as "Crumblin' Down" in which Mellencamp's physical posture as he sang made him seem as if he was boxing with an invisible foe.

Mellencamp is older and wiser, but he and his music have aged well because this heartland icon is smart enough to remember to be like the teenage hero Jack in his famous song - rebellious and cool. John Mellencamp is both.

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