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walktall2010
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« on: November 21, 2010, 11:18:14 am »

Mellencamp finds another gear with inspired show
Sunday, November 21, 2010

By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The documentary that played before the concert Saturday night at Heinz Hall showed John Mellencamp recording last summer at Sun Studio, standing in the spot where Elvis did.

He seems to have gotten more than a new album out of it. While he was on that hallowed ground, he clearly absorbed the spirits of??rock 'n' roll past, because if his game was an eight before, he's taken it up to a 10 on this tour.

The multi-dimensional show opened with a quirky documentary, "It's About You," about the recording of the stripped-down "No Better Than This" and the 2009 summer tour that had him playing the hits for hotdog-eating fans in minor-league ballparks, like the one in Washington County, with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

What came next was a trek through American roots with an array of styles and moods and more instrumental pairings than you could shake a pick at. He and his crack band, led by ridiculously talented guitarist Andy York, took the dynamics up, down and every which way, not even kicking in with the full drum kit till the 18th song.

It began in rockabilly mode, the band churning through "The Authority Song" the way Eddie Cochran would have done it, and putting extra punch into the new song, "No One Cares About Me."

The perfect visual accompaniment was a sepia-toned backdrop of classic architecture behind a string of blue and yellow light bulbs along with the spots.

Four songs in, the dark "Death Letter" had a streak of Delta blues running through it, and introduced the dynamic pairing of fiddler Miriam Strum and accordion player Troye Kinnett. "Walk Tall" was a gem with the fiddle winding through a Kinnett's boogie-woogie piano. The swamping, lurching blues of "The West End" showed that Mellencamp has been listening to Tom Waits and taking notes.

Over the years he's nurtured that image of the cranky aging rocker, but Saturday night he was chatty and in good spirits. "Well, you guys sure seem like a nice bunch of folks tonight," he said, breaking the ice, and promising "Songs you can dance to, songs you can cry to."

The rousing "Check It Out" fell into the former category, while "Jackie Brown" -- introduced with a talk about the powers-that-be not looking out for the well-being of the people -- fell into the latter, and was performed beautifully with just fiddle and guitar.

A tender solo-acoustic "Save Some Time to Dream" was paired with an a cappella sing-along of "Cherry Bomb." For all the cigarettes he's smoked, his voice has held up surprisingly well. He took a moment to make fun of his own musicianship, saying that in the early days of the band, they used to unplug his guitar 'cause he was so terrible.

"Easter Eve" was a rollicking country ballad that led into a honky-tonk version of "Jack and Diane." He was solo acoustic once again for "Small Town," seguing into the gorgeous fiddle-accordion duet of "New Hymn."

Having wooed us with this rootsy cocktail of rockabilly, blues, folk and country, Dane Clark stepped behind the full kit and the band went full-blown into the old arena favorites "Rain on the Scarecrow" and "Paper in Fire." Having joked early on that he'd gone from "dangerous young man" to "dangerous old man," Mr. Mellencamp demonstrated that point on a menacing "What if I Came Knocking?"

Mr. York, brilliant all night with his twangs, snarls and feedback, repainted "Pink Houses" with a slide guitar before they took it home with "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."

It might be so 1987 to rave about John Mellencamp, and I never thought I'd say this, but Dylan and Springsteen would be wise to get a DVD of this tour or better yet seen it in person. His best is nowhere near theirs but he showed how you can do it all -- all sides of your craft, quite seamlessly -- in a two-hour set. The fans who were game for this experiment may have seen the best concert of the year.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10325/1105092-388.stm#ixzz15vzcxrRE
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mellenheadinohio
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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2010, 10:26:50 pm »

possibly the best review i've read yet!
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jakesmom204
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2010, 01:29:18 am »

Great review and very accurate! 

What a night!  What a show!  I need another.

After stressing for days worrying about being able to get to downtown Pittsburgh as they had so brilliantly scheduled light up night for the same day as the John Mellencamp concert, we (me, my husband, the guitarkid and gf) made it to town in record time and found a parking place easily.  After grabbing dinner we walked to Heinz Hall.  The tickets said doors open at 6:30, film at 6:45.  It was a good thing they weren't very timely, as by 6:50 I was still trying to get into the theater.  I decided to bypass the paintings to find my seat as I was already late for the starting time for the film, so I made it to the seat with moments to spare.  I spotted Toni, Sharon, Lisa and Gary on the way in.  I was in row D, right behind the orchestra section, and being short, I was hoping for other shorties in front of me.  Luckily that was the case most of the time with the angle being very good for seeing the stage. 

My family had opted to sit in the balcony, so I took the single seat as the movie began.  I thought it was very interesting, low key, simple telling of the ballpark tour and making of NBTT as observed by someone just following along, not asking questions and sticking a microphone in front of a subject.  I enjoyed the observations of the towns they passed through, the historic sites during the recording and the plain spoken narration. I did like the one comment made by the narrator, something like some people are not sure if John Mellencamp is angry or simply putting them on sometimes, a fact that I think the writer of the Crazy Heart article didn't "get".

Next the theater filled with the pounding sound of Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down", which I kind of look at as the theme of this show. I see this kind of from the same angle as I saw the MHGL CD, which was, to me, a story in itself, like life's a circus and then you die but while we're here we might as well dance. This time, it's being presented as a Vaudeville show,a morbid, in a way, celebration of life, sad but glorious, with the muted, beautiful back drop, the stars shining above and very minimal spotlighting. The music and show, itself, presented so many sides of John Mellencamp and his versitility as a writer of the stories of our lives, the ups and down, the joys and losses.

There was a definate difference betweeen most of those seated in the premium areas and some my family observed in the balcony.  Most of those down front were there to see the film, listen to the show and make a memory. My husband said that there were some he heard upstairs complaining about the film, the intermission, the slow songs, John's stories. His comment "What do you have to do that so important that you can't sit and enjoy a night out in a beautiful theater watching an evening of entertainment?" I did have to put up with a couple of folks near me who were more interested in yelling "Cherry Bomb" than in listening to the show itself, luckily once he sang CB, they stopped.  But the woman behind me who kept  screaming Joooooooooooooooohn, every time he talked was much more interested in being heard than listening, perhaps she should have her own show. Perhaps tomorrow night. She didn't even notice that a few of us were turning around to glare at her as she screamed through John's introduction and story before Longest Days. At least I was too angry to cry during that one.

If I had to pick a few favorites, something very hard to do as the show was so perfect as a whole, it was hard to take out a moment as if it would spoil the story line. I thought Death Letter was an outstanding performance, Save Some Time To Dream got the tears flowing, the West End is so riviting in person, I love how he yelled "We are the West End" in the beginning, the beautiful hymn transition of the show with parts of MTM mixed in, one song with a message that would have fit in this show so well, all the various acoustic groupings and pairings of the band, something I have been asking for and waiting for all these years, and then finally our time to just forget it all and dance in the end. The story was complete.

One favorite moment that I haven't read anyone else comment about, was during my favorite song from NBTT, Right Behind Me. After a long, detailed rambling and funny story, JM really hammed up the performance on that song, over the top with the pauses and No!, but if you took a moment to watch Mike, Dane and Troy, I could just picture a group of antique, wind up toys, clapping the cymbals together or tapping on a drum, shaking a tamborine by the way the 3 of them stood and moved.  It was hysterical!

I know the set list was 25 songs, but I lost myself in the show, for the first time I felt like I saw a JOhn Mellencamp show that I never had the chance to see, back in the days of 2 1/2 hour shows. It still wasn't long enough for me, I'd still be standing there with tears in my eyes if he was still on stage, now a day later, but I heard the show I've been waiting for all these years, here in my hometown.

Then to see my friends again, Toni, Sharon, Lisa, Gary, Lori (you look great, girl! congratulations on 3 years!), Cindy, (I got to sign the cast, right under JM, lol), (sorry that it doesn't hurt so good), Diantha (great to see you again), and think about those I wish had been there and those I have yet to meet.  It's what this is all about, isn't it? It's a really great movie, this life, and we're all a part of it because of John Mellencamp!

My only disappointment was the fact that I didn't get to see the paintings, you'd think a venue that big would have more than 6 women's bathrooms! By the time I got back upstairs, the lights were flashing to get back to our seats.  Surely they would be on display after the show, but they were already packed up.  My family got to see them.  My future daughter in law said that she's going to have nightmares.

in closing, ............I need another show. NOW!


Dar
 

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mellenq
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2010, 08:51:55 am »

Great review Dar.  I so wish I could have been there to enjoy it with you. It sounds like a show I NEED to see! Wink
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kyralexis
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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2010, 10:20:02 am »

What an awesome review, Dar!  I have been so excited for you to see this show and I am soooo glad that you weren't disappointed except for the same reason we all are... that it had to end! 

I'm so happy for you!  So, you gonna save up for a road trip in the spring?  Wink
Kyra   Grin
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jakesmom204
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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2010, 10:46:56 am »

I may just have to miss a day or two of tax season if a ticket comes available somewhere.

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