Rolling Stone Magazine: New Leg of Tour Kicks Off With A Solo Acoustic Miniset & A Country Blues Combo

Rolling Stone Magazine By Patrick Doyle

If you're coming to hear the greatest hits, don't even come," John Mellencamp, who kicked off a 33-date run last night in Lowell, Massachusetts, tells Rolling Stone. For his first theater tour since 1997, Mellencamp is playing a two-hour-plus show that includes a solo acoustic miniset and a country-blues combo, before finishing with a full band.

"I have zero interest in walking into an arena and banging out those hits again," he says. "I'm 59 years old. and I look fucking ridiculous." Instead, he’s busting out rarities like 1989's "Jackie Brown" and covering Blind Willie McTell. Even his biggest songs are getting reworked: "Authority Song" got a rockabilly makeover, and "Jack and Diane" has become a country-swing tune.

Instead of bringing along a warm-up band, Mellencamp is screening a documentary, It's About You, shot on the road during his tour with Bob Dylan in 2009. "I like the idea of people walking into the theater and a movie is playing," he says. "It'll be like those old Dick Clark Caravan of Stars revues."

The singer is touring off No Better Than This, his 25th album, which was recorded with producer T-Bone Burnett in historical locations like Sun Studio in Memphis, the First African Baptist Church in Savannah and a hotel room in San Antonio where Robert Johnson recorded. It’s received some of the best reviews of his career, which baffles Mellencamp.

“I write the same fuckin’ four songs over and over again,” he says. “It all depends on how we dress ‘em up.” Still, he admits he’s improved from his Nineties output. “When I was with a major label for 29 years, they looked at me as a singles hit maker. When you have that kind of pressure put on you, you tend to kind of accommodate people. But as my career went on in the Nineties I didn’t care abut making records. I made them, but I didn’t give a shit. It was just something I had to do.”

As for the singer's upcoming plans, his decade-in-the-works musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County – a collaboration with Stephen King – will premier at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 2012. Liv Ullmann is set to direct, Meg Ryan may star and the soundtrack is nearly done. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the LP will include tracks written by Mellencamp and sung by Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello and Rosanne Cash. "For Americana music," says Mellencamp, "it's about as different as Sgt. Pepper was for rock music."

Here are John Mellencamp’s full tour dates:

Feb. 4 - Waterbury, CT - Palace Theatre
Feb. 6 - Ottawa, ON - National Arts Centre
Feb. 9 - Toronto, ON - Massey Hall
Feb. 10 - Toronto, ON - Massey Hall
Feb. 15 - Washington, DC - DAR Constitution Hall
Feb. 18 - New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall
Feb. 19 - New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall
Feb. 21 - Philadelphia, PA - Academy Of Music
Feb. 24 - Richmond, VA - Landmark Theatre
Feb. 26 - Columbia, SC - Township Auditorium
Feb. 27 - Atlanta, GA - Fox Theatre
Mar. 1 - Durham, NC - Durham Performing Arts Center
Mar. 3 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Broward Center
Mar. 4 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
Mar. 5 - Jacksonville, FL – Times Union Center Moran Theatre
Apr. 1 - Grand Prairie, TX - Verizon Theatre
Apr. 2 - Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theatre
Apr. 3 - Houston, TX - Jones Hall for the Performing Arts
Apr. 6 - Denver, CO – Temple Buell Theatre
Apr. 8 - Los Angeles, CA - Nokia Theatre
Apr. 9 - San Francisco, CA - The Warfield
Apr. 12 - Seattle, WA - McCaw Hall at Seattle Center
Apr. 13 - Vancouver, BC - Orpheum Theatre
Apr. 15 - Edmonton, AB - Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Apr. 16 - Edmonton, AB - Norther Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Apr. 19 - Saskatoon, SK - TCU Place
Apr. 22 - Regina, SK - Conexus Arts Centre
Apr. 23 - Regina, SK - Conexus Arts Centre
Apr. 25 - Winnipeg, MB - Centennial Concert Hall
Apr. 27 - Omaha, NE - Omaha Civic Music Hall
Apr. 28 - Ames, IA - Stephens Auditorium
May 1 - New Orleans, LA - Jazz & Heritage Festival

The Setlist:

Authority Song
No One Cares About Me
Death Letter
John Cockers
Walk Tall
West End
Check it Out
Save Some time to Dream
Cherry Bomb
Don’t Need This Body
Right Behind Me
Jackie Brown
Longest Days
Easter Eve
Jack and Diane
Small Town
Paper in Fire
The Real Life
What If I came Knocking
If I Die Sudden
No Better Than This
Pink Houses
Rock In The USA
She's So Tough