John spreads his wings
Story and Photos by Terry MayerJohn Mellencamp strutted into the Marcus Amphitheather with a pulse pounding authority. One of the original artists to be born and bred of the MTV generation showed us he can put on an exciting show without the video fluff. The veteran singer, burst out onto the stage to a drowning flurry of red confetti. The fans shot to their feet at that moment and nothing but the last chord drifting toward the lake would change their positions.
One of the most annoying songs ever written by John Mellencamp, "Jack & Diane," with its grating chorus and happy rhythm guitar riffs, was resurrected with fresh life. The bothersome clapping was replaced with a heavy bass line and an increased tempo that made it less happy and more of a bittersweet love song, a huge improvement over the original.
Mellencamp's eclectic band crossed many musical genres from salsa topped guitars and maracas, rock orchestral flutes, jazzy and upbeat bongos along with a piano and violinist that pulled everything together.
Mellencamp's stage style is "watch my hips shake while I watch yours shake harder." As he lit into "Paper in Fire" sweat was beading down his forehead and soaking his shirt as the familiar chords took hold. The violinist then did an absolutely amazing solo that left many speechless. The tone and range that sung from his instrument only reinforced the passion of the songs lyrics.
John often would side-step to the rear of the stage and let the other members of his band take the limelight.
On "Crumblin' Down" the band went into overdrive as they rocked with a fresh abandon. A lady came out on stage and started to preach to the "congregation." It was simply an intro to the best Mellencamp song to date, "Small Town." With its salty roots and country flavored melodies and simple, yet strong, hooky lyrics Mellencamp raised the bar for the rest of his performance.
As he rolled up his sleeves, Springsteen style, John went into "Authority Song" from his MTV heyday. Dreamy eyed girls held up signs saying "We Love You John" as he transformed the song into an improvisational sing along.
Near the show's end, came the preppy tribute to the 60s with R-O-C-K in the U-S-A. On "I'm Not Running Anymore" John sings that he's "not that young kid anymore." He may not be, but sometimes an adult has a lot more to say.
Story by Rick GramsIs the glass half empty or half full? Over the years many back-up bands have gone on to be headliners, others have been relegated to the county fair circuit reliving their past glories. There is always the fear of upstaging the main act, and perhaps losing the gig. Do you "go for it"or do you sit back and follow the revenue stream? That is a question that Jakob Dylan should have been asking himself before agreeing to to open for John Mellencamp. Here was an opportunity to introduce his band, The Wallflowers, to an audience that perhaps was not familiar with his music. The thirty-something crowd was there to see Mellencamp, and Dylan, unfortunately, did not use this venue to win the crowd over.
Photo by Terry Mayer
He lost the audience with his first two songs,"Letters From the Wasteland" and "Three Marlenas" which were boring and flat. People talked and chatted as if they were listening to background music in a bar instead of a live concert from a national act. A cheer rose from the crowd as they started to play "6th Avenue Heartache," but it was short-lived, as Dylan seemed to struggle with the words. Towards the end of the set, the crowd became more electric, and the band responded with more energetic work. But one has to wonder if they were responding to the crow or just happy to be near quitting time. The last song, a cover of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," was the best received song of the night. It was also the best entertainment of the entire set.
Don't get me wrong, The Wallflowers are good. I have seen Dylan's band as a headliner and they were superb. But tonight they lacked enthusiasm, and failed to connect with the crowd. Which half of the glass will it be next time?
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