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Author Topic: Arizona Republic Phoenix Review  (Read 4377 times)
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« on: July 30, 2015, 10:57:59 pm »

Solid John Mellencamp entertains Comerica Theatre

By Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic

John Mellencamp knows what he wants to do, and he knows how to get the job done. That much was clear during a solidly entertaining concert at Comerica Theatre on Wednesday, July 29.

The singer-songwriter launched his tour in January and finishes next week in his home state of Indiana. That's a long time on the road, and it probably explains why the concert moved with the brisk efficiency of a Broadway show. The pacing, the patter it was all carefully orchestrated and flawlessly executed. Perhaps that's why the singer seemed momentarily thrown when an overeager fan interrupted a touching story about Mellencamp's grandmother. "I'm gonna come to your work and yell (expletive)," Mellencamp said, though he appeared more playfully indignant than angry. Once the audience's laughter died down, Mellencamp, old pro that he is, quickly switched back to the tale of his grandmother who lived to be 100, and the train was back on the track.

Back to the pacing: The setlist was so smartly mapped out, you could almost put a formula to it. Layer a big hit song in the playlist every four or five numbers, then hammer it out of the park at the end by playing one smash after another. It was a good way to work in a few tunes from his current disc, "Plain Spoken," and to showcase some overlooked material from his deep catalog. That included the wistful midlife reflection of "Check It Out" and "If I Die Sudden," a chugging blues number. There was even a plug for "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," his theatrical collaboration with Stephen King. Opening act Carlene Carter joined Mellencamp for two songs from the show, which has had a troubled history (Mellencamp says an opening in London's West End is imminent).

Mellencamp's band looked as if they were ready for church, with the men in suits and violinist Miriam Sturm in a pretty dress. Everyone had a chance to shine. Andy York's slide guitar work was a highlight of "Stones in My Passway." Sturm, who recalls stage actress Julie Harris with her pixie hairdo, added a playful edge to "Troubled Man."

At 63, Mellencamp's voice has more gravel than it once did. He bordered on Tom Waits territory in the character study "The Full Catastrophe." Aided by some spooky lighting, the song actually had more of a theatrical edge than the "Ghost Brothers" material. Otherwise, he sounded in good shape, and his raggedy soulfulness on tunes like "Crumblin' Down" is appealing. He still likes to play the underdog, too. "I was about 25 years old when I wrote this song," he announced during "Authority Song." "I still feel the same way as I did then." Granted, it's a little hard to buy coming from a wildly successful entertainer who until recently was romantically linked with Meg Ryan, but he obviously means it.

Opening act Carter delivered a captivating set that was full of storytelling and her rich, penetrating voice. Though the mood of her songs was often darkly somber "Lonesome Valley 2003" is about the death of her mother, June Carter Cash Carter's sass and molasses-and-honey delivery is like the aural equivalent of a warm hug.


"Lawless Times"

"Troubled Man"

"Minutes to Memories"

"Small Town"

"Stones in My Passway"

"Human Wheels"

"The Isolation of Mister"

"Check It Out"

"Longest Days"

"Jack & Diane"

"The Full Catastrophe"

"Away From This World" (with Carlene Carter)

"Tear This Cabin Down" (with Carlene Carter)


"Rain on the Scarecrow"

"Paper in Fire"

"If I Die Sudden"

"Crumblin' Down"

"Authority Song"/"Land of 1,000 Dances"

"Pink Houses"

"Cherry Bomb"
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