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Author Topic: Dallas Morning News Review of Dallas Concert  (Read 3537 times)
walktall2010
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« on: March 08, 2015, 11:51:41 pm »

John Mellencamp didn’t go full Cougar, but he gave McFarlin just enough of the old stuff
By Hunter Hauk



John Mellencamp built a reputation in the 1980s as one of the greatest purveyors of hook-heavy radio rock. His straightforward lyrics reflected youthful rebellion, practical dreams and bubbling frustrations.

As iconic as Mellencamp’s hits have become since his earliest chart-topping days, though, there was no guarantee that the 63-year-old would pay them much mind during his concert Saturday night at SMU’s McFarlin Memorial Auditorium. The last several years have seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member move further into roots territory, exploring blues and folk in their purest forms. With a serious-minded, vintage-sounding album like 2014’s Plain Spoken as the primary inspiration for this U.S. tour, we didn’t necessarily foresee him leading a singalong of “Jack and Diane.”

But we failed to factor in Mellencamp’s respect for the fans who love him — most who showed up to McFarlin were old enough to have been with him his entire career. He knows they’ll lend his new stuff a gracious ear, but he also knows that his classic songs serve as their lifelong anthems. So the capacity crowd ended up enjoying many shades of Mellencamp on Saturday — as a performer, he delivered on every level.

Against a backdrop designed to look like a graffiti-laden concrete wall, the singer took the stage with a six-piece band including longtime guitarist Mike Wanchic and dynamic violinist Miriam Sturm.

The band and their leader eased into the set with two bare-bones tracks from Plain Spoken, “Lawless Times” and “Troubled Man,” and then a workmanlike take on the 1985 Scarecrow track “Minutes to Memories.” But the crowd didn’t come alive until it heard the first chords of Scarecrow’s bigger hit, “Small Town.” Seeing folks stand, clap and sing along filled us with relief: Too many times we’ve witnessed audiences at McFarlin stay awkwardly seated.

Mellencamp’s diehards, however, were up and down all night — down as he pushed his voice to new heights on a cover of bluesman Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway,” up and singing along during The Lonesome Jubilee tune “Check it Out,” back down for two duets with opening act Carlene Carter (June’s daughter, who earlier in the evening had dedicated a tune to her late mom).

And during that acoustic “Jack and Diane” singalong we didn’t think we’d get, Mellencamp let the audience handle the “oh yeah, life goes on” chorus.

Effective as the classics were, Mellencamp also thrilled with some left-of-center performances. His beautifully shredded voice plus two acoustic guitars gave us chills during the anti-“Jack and Diane” tune “Longest Days.” And when he lit up a cigarette and leaned into the mic for “The Full Catastrophe,” he showed his ability to infuse a live performance with just the right amount of theatricality.

Still, the audience in front of Mellencamp always rewarded the trips down memory lane. The last part of the setlist amounted to a time-machine ride back to the ’80s, with “Crumblin’ Down,” “Authority Song,” “Pink Houses” and the purposefully nostalgic “Cherry Bomb.” For those closing songs, everyone finally eschewed the seats for good. Groovin’ was groovin’.

http://popcultureblog.dallasnews.com/2015/03/john-mellencamp-didnt-go-full-cougar-but-he-gave-mcfarlin-just-enough-of-the-old-stuff.html/
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