By Alan Cochrane -
American rocker John Mellencamp had a crowd of 3,400 on their feet and singing along to songs like "Jack and Diane" at Moncton's new Avenir Centre Wednesday night.
Dressed in a black jumpsuit with trademark white t-shirt and his greying hair slicked back, the 66-year-old classic rocker led his six-member band (two guitars, bass, accordion/keyboard, violin and drums) through a 90-minute set of his well-known classics and lesser-known bluesy tunes. Instead of an opening act, there was a 30-minute film documenting the rocker's rise to fame through the 1970s and '80s.
Mellencamp kicked off the show with the bluesy "Lawless Times" and rolled
through such hits as "Small Town," "Pop Singer," and "Check It Out," but it was
"Jack and Diane," the story of two young lovers, that brought the crowd to its
feet to sing the verses and chorus. He performed a solo version of the Robert
Johnson blues song "Stones in my Passway" and left the stage briefly as the
fiddle and accordion players performed an overture of more hits.
Mellencamp spoke little during the show, except to tell the story of how he sat with his grandmother during her final days and she bestowed upon the wisdom that "Life is short, even in its longest days."
The show then revved up for more hits like "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Paper in Fire," "Crumblin' Down," "Pink Houses" and "Cherry Bomb."
Mellencamp's show kicked off a North American tour to promote Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, his 23rd studio album. Songs on the album were co-written with Carlene Carter, a singer-songwriter who is the daughter of country singer June Carter.
After Moncton, Mellencamp will perform at Harbour Station in Saint John Thursday and the Halifax Forum on Saturday. From there, the tour will take him to several venues in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, wrapping up in Abbotsford, B.C. on Nov. 14. From there, he will continue to perform throughout the U.S.
Mellencamp last played Moncton on July 3, 2012, a concert remembered by fans as a "hot one" with no air conditioning in the Coliseum.