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Author Topic: Blog Review of Ottawa Show (Note: Wrong Setlist)  (Read 16703 times)
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« on: February 10, 2011, 12:05:34 am »

Concert Review: John Mellencamp
February 6, 2011
National Arts Center-Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (soft seat theatre)
Attendance: sold out (not sure what that could be, but around 3000 maybe?)
Ticket price: $255. Yes, you read that right, but I was in the front row, 4 seats dead center.

I’m baaaa-aaaack. I did not stop writing reviews, it’s just that there hasn’t been anything decent since Kim Mitchell back in September. So, this is the first review of ’11. Let’s get ‘er goin’. Since I AM a bit rusty, this one will be short (plus I’m going to the Heart concert tonight, and need to save some comedy!)

Before I get into the music, I needed to provide a counterpoint to something I saw Rita MacNeil say. I watched a bio piece on her over the Christmas holidays, and she said something like (paraphrasing) “…the first time I read a review where the writer didn’t mention my weight, I thought ‘finally, this guy really gets it’…” My argument is that a concert is mostly about the music, but there are also other sights, sounds, and yes, even smells that all combine to make what is, the concert experience.

I’m proud to say that there was nothing unpleasant in the smell department to report about the Mellencamp show.

It was a beautiful winter evening in Ottawa, and I was able to walk to the show. Got to will-call, got my ticket (stupid ticketmaster and their will-call shenanigans for good seats!), and arrived just in time for the opening act which was, a documentary about Mellencamp.

As mentioned above, I was in the front row…of a soft seat theatre show. What does that mean? It means that for the opening act, people were sitting down. I was slouching—as close as I could get to lying down. The documentary was OK, but not great. If it were to come out on DVD, would I buy it? Nope. Once is enough. It was more about politics, farming, geography, and Americana than it was about the musical genius that is, John Mellencamp. (hard not to stick ‘cougar’ in there).

After the documentary, there was a 20 minute intermission. What? Too long. So, I went for a stroll—lined up for the bathroom. Lots of 40 somethings wandering around. Unlike a metal concert, there were no girls dressed in rubber pants (looking to sleep with Vince Neil) wandering around. No smell of left-handed cigarettes. Just people, talking about the super bowl.

Finally…”ladies and gentlemen, from Bloomington, Indiana, please welcome, John Mellencamp!” And out he came, with almost full band (percussion, stand-up bass, two guitars). John was dressed in some sort of linen suit, and bearded—looked really good. He was playing a telecaster-type axe (not a Fender though—couldn’t see what the headstock said).

The first song was a real rocker…was not familiar sounding, until he started to sing. Here’s the kicker. They started with “the Authority Song”, but they didn’t use that awesome riff at the beginning! The ONLY thing I can figure is that each time they play it the ‘album’ way is that they have to pay royalties to Kenny Loggins, and don’t want to do that anymore (c’mon…you know Authority Song intro sounds like Footloose).

You could break the show into 3 separate ‘chunks’: solo acoustic (just him, sometimes fiddler, sometimes another guitar), small band (2 guitars, stand-up bass, stand up percussion, sometimes fiddle, sometimes accordion), full on rock band (electric bass, full drums, sit down organ). He started off with the small band, and I was really impressed. Especially with the percussion dude. For you drummers out there, this is what it looked like: snare, small tom, plus a BIG floor tom, big crash (or ride), small crash (no hi-hats). There was some sort of pedal, but no bass drum. He would also hit the side of the big floor tom. With just that stuff, the guy ROCKED. Did several songs in this configuration, then some solo(ish), then full on rock band for the last 5 or 6 songs. Full on rock band was LOUD. L-O-U-D!

For the first couple of tunes, everybody was on their feet, then slowly people started to sit down (or slouch in my case). There was one guy about 5 seats away from me (with either his son or little brother) who up on their feet, dancing non-stop (with many moves that he shares with Janic Gers), and singing EVERY lyric. Once those two dudes were the only ones up, an usher came over and asked them to sit—people booed—Mellencamp motioned for them to get back up…they did, and the place went nuts. They didn’t sit down again. Good for them. I was glad to see people have so much fun! It was like one of those sayings “dance like nobody is looking”, and they did. It was awesome.

To the left of the dancing guys was a beautiful young lady (more on her later), then two dudes in their fifties, then me (yes I went solo), and to my left was a guy and his date. He might have found his date in the yellow pages, or in the classified ads in the back of the local tabloid newspaper. He would have been better off going alone—he paid her god-knows-what, PLUS the ticket. It cost him (I’m guessing) close to a grand to have her sitting there texting on her phone, while HE was up dancing and clapping, most of the night. I HAVE to get to the clapping. Red is not a dancer—never have been. But I do have a certain sense of rhythm. The dude next to me? He could not clap in time if there was a gun to his head. I wanted to take his arms and help him clap in time, the same way we taught my son to clap in time. It ain’t that hard people. Look at mellencamp—see his hands? When he gives HIMESELF a high-five, you give YOURSELF a high five. Poor Aubrey back in Ashby in the early 80s had a better sense of rhythm!

Anyway, enough of that rant. So, JM comes out to do a few songs acoustic. The first one was a new song called “Save some time to dream”—what a great song! Great lyrics, great message. It was about a lesson he learned from his dad. At one point, there was a real quiet part, and some genius screams “we love you John!” and mellencamp laughed and lost his place in the song. There was a bit of comedy like this throughout the night. During another acoustic song (and one of his guitarists joined him), I could see that he was playing a different chord from the other guy. The guy leans in and says “F” (the chord, not the expletive--I was close enough to read lips)—JM was playing a C. JM laughed, got down and pointed at the teleprompter, and looked stage left and jokingly chewed out one of the sound guys running the teleprompter.

In a very “Spinal Tap on the Simpsons” moment, JM mentions that he had gone skating earlier that day, to a round of screams. “So, when I arrived in town, I got bundled up and went skating on your river!” Anyway, he mentioned that he fell, and this dude helped him up (as IF he didn’t have security with him while out skating). The dude says “hey, you’re John mellencamp”, and proceeded to ask him to play a specific song. JM said to the crowd “well, I wasn’t going to do this on this tour, but I’m doing it tonight, for the dude that helped me out today, wherever he’s sitting” He did an acapella version of Cherry Bomb. It was friggin’ AWESOME. The place went nuts.

So, after more and more and more new songs and old hits, they did full on rock for the last few songs. Some were ‘album’ versions; some were new treatments of old classics. This was my third time seeing mellencamp, and third different version of Jack and Diane. It was OK, but not great. I appreciate that he’s probably sick of it, but c’mon. Don’t wreck it, just skip it. Pink Houses was a little bit closer to the original.

During ROCK in the USA (one of my least favourite songs of his), the young lady I mentioned above (not the “hired help”, the other one) she was getting a dude sitting next to her to get him to take a picture of her in front of the stage (that was hard to follow). Anyway, at one point, Mellencamp came over and I THOUGHT he was going to lean in so that he could REALLY be in the picture with her. Nope. He pulled her up on stage a la the boss and Courtney Cox. I couldn’t quite tell if this was a “set up” or not. I chatted with the girl briefly when walking out after the show, and I THINK that it might have been an actual random “let’s get that hot girl up on stage”. Not sure…

Anyway, ROCK in the USA was the last song of the night. No encore, but he played for a LONG time.

I’m going to give this one 4.5 Lobsters out of five. My only complaints: the documentary and weakfish arrangements of old classics. If it had been in a hockey arena, it probably would have been fewer lobsters, but sitting in the front row, watching that legend, in a soft seat theatre, was unbelievable—it was like being at a taping of VH1 storytellers. Really glad I did it—Mellencamp is a great singer, guitar player (a note on his guitar playing: he only used one pick all night, only played two guitars [an old Martin, and that tele-style], plays his Gs in a really awkward manner, and not once did he play a Barre Chord, and entertainer/storyteller.

Highlights: “save some time to dream”, “cherry bomb”, “check it out”. One word: Awesome.

Set list (95% sure)

1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares About Me
3. Deep Blue Heart
4. Death Letter
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time To Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don't Need This Body
11. Right Behind Me
12. Jackie Brown
13. Cherry Bomb
14. Longest Days
15. Easter Eve
16. Jack and Diane
17. Thinking About You
18. Small Town
19. New Hymn
20. Rain On The Scarecrow
21. Troubled Land
22. Paper In Fire
23. If I Die Sudden
24. The Real Life
25. No Better Than This
26. Pink Houses
27. Rock In The USA
« Last Edit: February 10, 2011, 12:07:06 am by walktall2010 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2011, 02:04:54 am »

And I rate your review 4.8 lobsters. Nice job. Thanks.

RichM752rnEverything is cool as can be in a peaceful world.rnrnrnrnrn
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 02:14:28 am »

RichM752rnEverything is cool as can be in a peaceful world.rnrnrnrnrn
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2011, 09:35:16 pm »

I was the guy with his son (not little brother) dancing and singing non stop. Thanks for the dancing compliment :-).

I was wondering if anyone else had noticed that John motioned us to stay dancing when the usher came by. I'm happy to see that others did too.

Great review by the way!
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