John Mellencamp, Hinkle Fieldhouse make a historic pairing
By David Lindquist
The "Big Barn" on Butler University's campus has hosted a Billy Graham Crusade and a Sonja Henie ice-skating extravaganza, but Hinkle Fieldhouse rarely is the site of special events on par with a John Mellencamp show.
During Thursday night's performance, Mellencamp mentioned a mystery concert in 1967 as the last rock 'n' roll presentation before his -- surely nothing to match the significance of this Indiana intersection.
It was a night when Hoosier treasures converged. "Pink Houses" and "Jack & Diane" were performed on a stage built on the basketball court, with only a protective tarp separating hallowed hardwood from the musicians and enthusiastic fans.
In the lobby, the open-for-business Spirit Shop sold Bulldog gear a few feet from a display of Mellencamp's paintings.
Hinkle's old-school array of single lights dangled above the audience, reminiscent of past Mellencamp tours in which similar lights were part of stage designs to suggest the aura of a heartland hoops palace.
About 5,000 people caught the show, following a gathering of 2,200 Monday night at Clowes Hall.
Hinkle's historic angle wasn't lost on Butler-Tarkington resident Mike Paredes.
"We know people around the country are dying to be here," the 43-year-old said.
During the screening of a documentary film shown before every date of the "No Better Than This" tour, longtime Mellencamp guitarist Mike Wanchic passed time with his family near the center of the arena.
Wanchic played cornerback for DePauw University's football team in the early '70s, so he's no stranger to the Butler Bowl. Thursday, however, marked his first visit to Hinkle.
The show adhered to the same three-act format witnessed at Clowes: rockabilly, folk and rock. A string of introspective songs in the middle section formed a sermon of sorts, with Mellencamp lauding the "joy of life" he viewed in some faces while decrying the devil that's in everyone.
A few boos were heard during Mellencamp's introduction for "Jackie Brown," a tale of poverty from 1989's "Big Daddy" album. The singer quoted a constitutional pledge to finance the protection and well-being of American citizens and added his view that the protection part is never a problem, but the well-being is.
If this comment was less welcome on Veterans Day than at Clowes, where the same words were cheered, the entire Hinkle audience gave full and respectful attention to mortality message "Longest Days," the song that followed "Jackie Brown."
With Mellencamp friends and family well-represented at Hinkle, perhaps current Butler students made up the smallest demographic.
Freshman Derek Brown attended his first Mellencamp show, however, taking a break from his studies of chemistry and biomedical engineering.
"I like a lot of his old stuff," the 18-year-old North Vernon native said.
And Brown had no complaints about the show's convenient location.
"I'm not going to have any traffic; I'll just walk back to my room," he said.http://www.indystar.com/article/20101112/ENTERTAINMENT/11120359/John-Mellencamp-Hinkle-Fieldhouse-make-a-historic-pairing?odyssey=tab