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Author Topic: Minneapolis Setlist Breakdown  (Read 10033 times)
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« on: November 23, 2010, 09:54:39 am »

Mellencamp at the Orpheum: Dishing the details

Posted by Jon Bream

John Mellencamp’s No Better Than This Tour is his equivalent of  Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions Tour.

Rather than playing his familiar arena rock, he’s dialing it down with a reconfigured band for recent old-timey tunes and reimagined rootsy versions of old favorites. 

To put it in radio terms, Monday’s 127-minute performance at the Orpheum was more NPR than KQRS. Not that there was anything wrong with that aesthetic.  The concert was curious and often rewarding, but it could have been much better with more thoughtful pacing, more passion and commitment from Mellencamp and no indulgent documentary to open the show. That hourlong movie by rookie filmmaker Kurt Markus was more off-putting than entertaining. It did not exactly “warm up” the audience.

My review in the newspaper gave an overview but here’s a more detailed look at Mellencamp’s music:

The first set, featuring a small combo with an upright bass and small drum kit, would have fit nicely into Lee’s Liquor Lounge.

1.       Authority Song. Done kinda Buddy Holly style, driven by the slap bass and tom-tom drum.
2.       No One Cares About Me. This twang-abilly gallops along like vintage Johnny Cash. Should we call this old-school country singer Johnny Cougar?
3.       Deep Blue Heart. Sounds like Dylan from “Time Out of Mind.”
4.       Death Letter. A Son House tune from Mellencamp’s 2003 blues collection. He sings it with a cool attitude. His nicotine-stained growl is perfect for this old Delta blues.
5.       Walk Tall. Recast as a country stroll with Dylanesque phrasing and some barrelhouse piano.
6.       The West End. It’s his urban answer to Rain on the Scarecrow – just as seething and haunting.
7.       Check It Out. Very rootsy but it feels more like a conversation than a celebration.
Next comes the acoustic set, which felt like it should have been at the Fine Line because so many concertgoers could be heard talking over the relatively quiet music.
8.       Save Some Times To Dream. This sweet, poignant song was inspired by a comment by his father. Done solo on acoustic guitar, this suggests John Prine.
9.       Cherry Bomb. Done solo and a cappella. A real crowd pleaser.
10.   Don’t Need This Body. Sounds like a bluegrassy Bon Jovi, with a cool surf guitar solo by Andy York.
11.   Right Behind Me. After a silly introduction about the Devil (Mellencamp’s patter sounded pat and he never had a sense of place. Could he mention Minneapolis?), he got the vaudeville blues. He sounds like Leon Redbone without the slyness.
12.   Jackie Brown.  He starts solo acoustic and Miriam Sturm arrives later for a fine fiddle solo.
13.   Longest Days. After a cute and sometimes funny story about his 100-year-old Grandmother, he sings with an affected Western drawl.
14.   Easter Eve. He gets political on this Irish-flavored banjo/mandolin/fiddle folk tune that echoes Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom.”
15.   Jack and Diane. Borrowing a vibe from the Zac Brown Band, he starts country and ends up as an island stroll. This ditty sounds as cheery as a theme to a kid’s TV show.
16.   Small Town. Solo acoustic and very effective.
17.   New Hymn. A fiddle/accordion  instrumental seems like an opportunity for Mellencamp to go have a smoke. But it really is a palate cleanser between sets.
The third set was the full electric band (a full drum kit for the first time) that could have been played at the X or Target Center. Time to put in your earplugs.
18.   Rain on the Scarecrow. Long one of my favorite Mellencamp tunes, this is booming -- and slashing.
19.   Paper and Fire. He keeps rocking like our old hero. That’s what so many of the fans came for.
20.   The Real Life. The show finally has momentum. But it’s too little too late.
21.   What If I Came Knocking. Great tension between fiddle and electric guitar.
22.   If I Die Sudden. Swampy and haunting, with a hot fiddle solo.
23.   No Better Than This. The title track of his fine new album is a blues-abilly triumph.
24.   Pink Houses. Wow pink lights – for you and me.
25.   R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. He starts this one like he started the show – with a Buddy Holly beat. Could you believe he had trouble convincing a female fan to come onstage and dance with him? One woman finally made it and even sang when he placed the mic in front of her face.
I don’t know how much the set will change for Tuesday’s return engagement at the Orpheum. But I do know this: the movie starts at 6:45 p.m. and Mellencamp takes the stage at 8:30.
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« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2010, 11:19:18 am »

Easter Eve.  Political?
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2010, 07:52:30 pm »

My name is Anita and I was the woman up on stage with John dancing and singing. If anyone videotaped me I would love to see it!!!!
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