Tales From The Stage – John Mellencamp

Going back now to 2016, and yeah it’s still weird that it was now seven years ago. The occasion was John Mellencamp in concert. I had never seen him live before so I jumped on the chance when he booked a local show.

The show was at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts on the campus of Missouri State University. Sure it’s a mouthful to say but it’s a great place to see a show. It is a theater type of building with balconies that look basically right over the stage, meaning there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. I was up in one of the first few rows of the first balcony and had a great view of the stage, even from up a bit in the air.

Opening the show was Carlene Carter, the first-born daughter of June Carter and a performer since the mid ’70’s. She had been collaborating with Mellencamp and this would continue into the next year when they released a joint album. Carlene played a set that featured some old Carter Family standards like Will The Circle Be Unbroken as well as her hits from the early ’90’s, including Every Little Thing. She was very engaging and put on a really nice show. I wish I had more to say about it but this was seven years ago and also not a single person uploaded a setlist of hers from any stop on this tour so I’m a bit hosed on that. Had I known that I would have kept track of it that night but I’m not bright enough to do that.

Between sets Carlene was reportedly giving free hugs in the main lobby by the merch stands. I missed out on that because there was a beer vendor just off to the side of my section. Them’s the breaks, I guess.

Here is a bit of very good footage of Carlene from the same year in North Carolina.

After the break, John Mellencamp came out with his band, or at least the first iteration of it. For these shows John was splitting things into two mini-sets – one with more country-oriented instruments such as fiddle, and the second with the standard rock package.

Mellencamp opened with two songs from his most recent album, 2014’s Plain Spoken. Lawless Times and Troubled Man were the cuts. I wasn’t overly familiar with them but they were good songs to kick the show off with. He then went into two old classics, Minutes To Memories and Small Town.

John filled the time between songs with some banter, telling short stories about stuff his kids were up to and things like that. The set would run through several songs from different eras – hits like Human Wheels and Check It Out as well as other cuts from albums more recent.

The oldest album Mellencamp went back to for a song was 1982’s American Fool. He made sure to let the crowd know that he personally didn’t want to do the song but he knew everyone would riot if he didn’t, and then went into Jack And Diane. It is one of his bigger hits but also does get a fair bit of flack. John has not been shy about not liking the song but hey, you gotta play your hits. The crowd was into it so I guess that’s the important part.

The first part of the set rounded out with two collaborations with Carlene Carter – Indigo Sky and My Soul’s Got Wings. Both of these would appear on their joint album the following year. Then some instrumental parts led to a brief set change to set up the rock half of the show.

And when I say rock, I mean rock. Mellencamp and company came out to absolutely shred. The guitars were distorted and turned up to 11 and the band pounded out the hits. Rain On The Scarecrow led the way, with other hits like Paper In Fire, Authority Song and Crublim’ Down following. The set would close on Pink Houses and then Cherry Bomb.

That would wrap up the night. I was very glad to have finally seen Mellencamp live as he had been one of about a million artists I’ve missed over the years. It’s far easier to see someone when they play local as opposed to dealing the hustle and cost of travel to a major city, and this show was literally a few miles from my house. It was off into the night for me, with one more artist checked off my bucket list.

This video is not good at all but the sound is ok and it’s from the very show I was at.

11 thoughts on “Tales From The Stage – John Mellencamp

  1. My mom was a huge “Mellen Head” throughout the 80s and 90s and my very first concert was actually John Mellencamp on his Dance Naked tour at then Greatwoods in Mansfield, MA. I must have been 9 or 10. It’s a positive memory, though as I got older and became a self-conscious punk rocker and eventual metalhead I rarely shared that experience with my peers.

    Liked by 1 person

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