Springfield's Republican: Mellencamp Sends A Message

Monday, December 10, 2007
UNCASVILLE, Conn. - If you didn't answer your phone when it rang at 10:16 on Friday night there's a chance you missed a call from John Mellencamp.

While pulling out a cell phone and calling friends from a concert is no longer a novel idea in our wireless age, having the artist make the request from the stage was Mellencamp's particular twist on the practice in the middle of his two-hour set at Mohegan Sun.

When friends and family members answered calls around New England at that moment, the message they got from the stage was a simple one (after Mellencamp wondered aloud what they were doing at home on a Friday night): Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.

The sentiment, culled from his hit "Jack and Diane" was a central theme to the set delivered by the Indiana-bred singer and his crack band as he sang like a man with a past on the precipice of something big.

Mellencamp is currently recording a new album, so this show and corresponding tour may be nothing more than a Rock Hall of Fame campaign jaunt (the veteran rocker has been nominated for inclusion in the upcoming class). The songs, and the manner in which they were delivered, certainly serve as proof that Mellencamp deserves to be in the conversation as one of the more relevant artists of the last 20 years.

Not bad for a guy who was once known as Johnny Cougar.

Mellencamp opened with "Pink Houses" and moved to the rootsy "Paper and Fire," both songs delivered without pomp and circumstance or forced pageantry. He followed with a gritty solo acoustic version of the relatively obscure "Minutes to Memories.

He stayed out on the stage solo for a new song "Ride Back Home (Hey Jesus)," which he dedicated to the "isolated and lonely," and wrapped up the acoustic mini-set with "Small Town."

The band returned for the searing "Ghost Towns Along the Highway," part of an ode to the disappearing family farm that included the seminal "Rain on the Scarecrow."

Mellencamp talked about race relations and reprised the song "Jena, Take Your Nooses Down" which he wrote in response to an incident involving six black teens in Jena, La. He deftly followed that with the anthemic "Our Country," which doubles as a pitch song for Chevrolet.

Mellencamp rolled out the hits to wrap up the show with "Crumblin' Down," "Lonely Ol' Night" and the aforementioned "Jack and Diane." He encored with "The Authority Song."

Los Lobos opened the show with a 45 minute set.
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