New Zealand’s Stuff Website: Gig Review: John Mellencamp & Sheryl Crow

Two of classic rock's biggest names - John Mellencamp and Sheryl Crow - joined forces for a night at Vector Arena. Reviewer Heather McCracken was there.

John Mellencamp & Sheryl Crow
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Wednesday, December 3
It was a moment near the end that seemed to sum it up best.

Winding up to the climax of Jack and Diane, John Mellencamp stopped and asked the crowd to take out their mobile phones and call someone at home to share in the moment.

"I've got time, I can wait," he said, picking up a front-row fan's phone and briefly chatting to their confused wife.

It was one of many folksy digressions during the show, which also included stories about Mellencamp's grandmother, about his three marriages, and playing at the White House.

Mellencamp was playing Auckland's Vector Arena with Sheryl Crow before heading to Wellington and Christchurch for winery gigs.

"I'm surprised there's anybody here to see me," the 57-year-old told the crowd.

The last time he played Auckland, he said, there were only two television channels and they shut down at 9pm.

"You've really grown up."

With 35 years of performing and 23 albums to choose from, including this year's Life, Death, Love & Freedom, there was plenty of material to cover.

He went for a smattering of new tunes, a laid-back acoustic set, and a sing-along finish including R.O.C.K in the USA and Jack and Diane.

Thirteen-year-old son Speck joined the band for an encore of Authority Song and crowd-pleaser Hurt So Good.

The man who told John McCain to stop using his songs during this year's presidential campaign played in front of an all-American backdrop of faded patchwork and stars and stripes.

And he couldn't help getting political, calling himself the last of a dying breed of musician who's not afraid to speak out about equality and fair wages.

Sheryl Crow toyed with politics during her set too, saying America had been through tough times, "But hopefully things will be looking up pretty soon".

Crow's performance was a mixed bag: Strongest when showing off her impressive voice on Can't Cry Anymore and Strong Enough; weakest when delving into world music with the Dalai Lama-inspired Out of Our Heads.

She surprised with a cover of Crowded House's Mean to Me, crediting the Kiwi band with giving her an early break as a support act, and the late Paul Hester for inspiring her own hit Every Day is a Winding Road.

Earlier, local next-big-thing Gin Wigmore played a brief and charming opening set, including irresistibly upbeat tunes SOS and Under My Skin.

The 21-year-old captured the crowd's attention with just guitar, keyboards and her beguiling, unexpected, surely-it-hurts-to-sing-like-that voice.

It probably wasn't her ideal audience, but she undoubtedly won hearts

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