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Author Topic: Wisconsin State Fair Review  (Read 23098 times)
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« on: August 06, 2017, 11:57:03 pm »

Righteous Mellencamp rocked the State Fair
By Molly Snyder

John Mellencamp, the artist formerly known as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar and John Cougar Mellencamp, is definitely at home in the heartland. Tonight, he played for 100 minutes on the Main Stage at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Mellencamp, who is now 65 and still resides in Indiana, is on his "Sad Clowns & Hillbillies" tour, with Carlene Carter, through Sept. 3. The tour promotes his new album (with many contributions from Carter) of the same name that was released in April but, of course, is also a retrospective of his rock 'n' roll anthems.

"We're gonna do some songs you know, some songs you don't know, some songs you can sing along to and some songs you can dance to. We're gonna do all kinds of songs tonight," Mellencamp told the audience a few songs into the show.

Indeed, he and his band of six followed through with that promise. The crowd sang along with "Small Town," "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Crumbling Down," "Pink Houses" and "Cherry Bomb." There was even a little dancing at times (good job, often-sedentary Milwaukeeans) and offbeat-but-passionate maraca playing by a fervent fan in front of us.

An acoustic version of "Jack & Diane" was particularly appreciated by the crowd. He told us that he wrote the song in 1980 sitting in his room and listening to, then joining in, "some activity" in the next room.

"That 'activity' seemed a lot more interesting than anything going on in my room, and so by 2:30 in the morning, both activities were complete, including this song," he said. "I don't even know why I play this anymore. I guess it's because I know you folks wanna hear it."

Some fans were less enthused with new tune, "Easy Target," a political ballad that critiques income inequality in America and praises the Black Lives Matters movement. A few fans left after that song and others yelled out "you need a shot" and "this is a Liberal's song!"

Mellencamp and his band, dressed in black suits and white shirts, looked and sounded great. Mellencamp's raspy voice was every bit as powerful as it was on his studio albums. A bluesy, soulful, version of "Stones In My Passway" showcased the strength of his voice.

Since he entered the music scene in 1976, Mellencamp collected 22 Top 40 hits and was nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, winning one. He is also known for co-organizing the first Farm Aid benefit concert with Neil Young and Willie Nelson in Champaign, Illinois in 1985. As of 2017, Farm Aid concerts have raised over $50 million for struggling family farmers.

This was a bucket list show for me. Although more a fan of "alternative" music during the MTV days when Mellencamp first made his musical mark, so many of his songs are deeply engrained in my psyche and would definitely belong on the Generation X Soundtrack, if there ever was one.

Show opener Carlene Carter performed on numerous songs with Mellencamp. Carter, who is the daughter of the late June Carter Cash and the stepdaughter of the late Johnny Cash, told a variety of charming and heartfelt quips and stories in-between songs.

"My mama told me I couldn't have sex until I was married, and so I got married," she said. "A lot."

Carter was romantically linked to Howie Epstein, a Milwaukee native and longtime bassist for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers who died from a heroin overdose in 2003. "I will always have a special place in my heart for Milwaukee because of Howie," she said. "He's on tour with the angels and I'm on tour with y'all."


Lawless Times

John Cockers

Minutes to Memories

Small Town

Stones in My Passway

Pop Singer

Check It Out

Jack & Diane

Grandview (with Carlene Carter)

My Soul's Got Wings (with Carlene Carter)

Easy Target

Overture (Mellencamp's violin player accompanied by an accordionist)

Rain on the Scarecrow

Paper in Fire

Crumblin' Down

Authority Song (with Land of 1000 Dances interlude)

Pink Houses

Cherry Bomb
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