John Mellencamp concert at Akron Civic full of warmth and beloved hitsThe 65-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer fires up a full house of fans
By Dan Kane Repository entertainment editor
AKRON At the same time the presidential debate was escalating in negativity Wednesday night, I was happily singing "Ain't that America, home of the free, little pink houses for you and me" along with a packed house of John Mellencamp fans at the Akron Civic Theatre. It was a celebratory night, one that had kicked off with the Tribe winning a berth in the World Series.
Mellencamp's common-man anthem "Pink Houses" was part of an exciting run of high-energy hits — "Crumblin' Down," "The Authority Song," "Cherry Bomb" — that closed the show. Now 65, Mellencamp doesn't race around the stage as he did in his '80s heyday, and his voice has some added rasp, but he's still got some moves, and his vocal phrasing, warm spirit and humor endure. Maturity suits him well, and there was genuine eloquence to much of the evening, yet he can still sing "I fight authority, authority always wins" with convincing young-man rebellion.
The Akron concert was part of Mellencamp's ongoing Plan Spoken Tour, which offers a rich retrospective of his lengthy career. His six-piece band — which features his cohort of 40 years, guitarist Mike Wanchic — was impeccable, offering a textured, Americana-tinged sound on the quieter, more introspective songs and full-tilt rock 'n' roll when called for. Skilled fiddler Miriam Sturm was a big part of the show. The crowd response was loud and enthusiastic throughout.
There were some wonderfully intimate numbers. Alone onstage, Mellencamp accompanied himself on acoustic guitar for "Jack and Diane," and with piano backing crooned a nightclub number in a style reminiscent of Tom Waits. His rendition of Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" was impassioned blues. He sang "Pop Singer," which denounces shallow radio pap, with sly humor.
Other favorites on the setlist included "Small Town," "Check It Out," "Minutes to Memories," "Paper in Fire" and a lowdown and fierce "Rain On the Scarecrow," whose words seem as relevant as they did in 1985. Carlene Carter, June Carter's daughter and Johnny Cash's stepdaughter, shone vocally in two memorable duets with Mellencamp; her show-opening set was engaging and personable.
Introducing the warmly nostalgic "Cherry Bomb," Mellencamp said, "The problem with talking about old times is you've gotta be old." Clearly, he's not done yet.http://www.cantonrep.com/news/20161020/john-mellencamp-concert-at-akron-civic-full-of-warmth-and-beloved-hits