Only moments before 8p, the in-house security supervisor standing beside me states softly, "John will come out in about 30 minutes." She then continues, "There will be a 24-minute video played first, then he'll come out."
I'm sorry, what did she just say? Surely she meant 24 seconds, right?
At exactly 8p, eager fans excitedly cheered when a projector from the back of the stage casted a black and white film onto the screen which hung centerstage. The film played for just about 4 minutes. Another title flashed onto the screen, and another 4 minute black and white film played. A 3rd title then projected onto the screen. By this point, the confused crowd rapidly grew irritated, with one fan toward the rear of the theatre bellowing out a very loud 'boooo', clearly demonstrating his dissatisfaction of the black and white film montage. I had done the math and knew that if my secret was correct on the timing, that we were only halfway through this. When the 4th short film displayed, now a new voice from the audience yelled out 'Refund!!', and another voice agitatedly screaming, 'Start the show!' I was honestly getting slightly nervous as the crowd was rapidly escalating in anger at what should have instead been an opening act. 8 painfully long minutes later, the 6th film had played and I was thankful that the house lights had begun to dim already, and the red police lights positioned along the perimeter of the room began to illuminate as sirens bellowed, creating lots of excitement.
The preceding montage was heavily influenced by tour sponsor, Turner Classic Movies, the movies were hand-picked by Mellencamp who apparently has an appreciation toward classic film.
Mellencamp took to the stage just around 8:30p, and opened with 'John Cockers', whose opening line 'I don't accommodate nobody' helped set the stage of the world of Mellencamp's rebelliousness in which we were preparing to become immersed in for the next 90 minutes. In John's 2nd song of the evening 'Paper in Fire', he speaks of the tragedy which occurs when families fail to grow up. In the more uplifting 'Minutes to Memories', Mellencamp cites just how quickly life is passing us all by. Coupled with the film montage, at just 3 songs in, the crowd has been given a pretty solid glimpse into the inner workings of Mellencamp's psyche, and some high level insight into his views of life.
It was after the 4th song 'Small Town', that John introduced himself by name to the audience, further stating, 'We'll be doing some songs you might know, some songs you might not know. Some of these you can dance to, some of these you might sing to.'
When the accordion opened up 'Check It Out', the crowd in the first few rows immediately jumped to their feet as many were singing along to the familiar tune.
John then asks, "Have you guys ever been to Portland OR? I've never seen so many homeless people. I was eating in a nice restaurant when I saw this 25 year old... she was a pretty girl... homeless. She says, 'You don't know what they do to me every night here, they rape me. I was going to buy her a bus ticket and she says that her family doesn't want her either.' He goes on to say that he then wrote the following song for her, 'Eyes of Portland'." This was a beautiful acoustic piece, and we're now being exposed to a very vulnerable and helpless side of Mellencamp.
And with this, we've now entered a very insightful portion of the concert. I'm loving all of the dialogue in between songs. In his next monologue, he tells of a story between him and his grandmother. His grandmother says to him, "You're not going to get into Heaven with all that cussing and running around," who then faces upward in prayer stating to God, "and me and Buddy (Mellencamp) are ready to come home." John says to his grandma in the story, "Grandma, Buddy is not ready to come home." The crowd is laughing, seemingly relating to this grandparent / grandchild type of conversation. The story continues with a few more jokes regarding Heaven, but Mellencamp caps it off with his realization that life is real short, even in its longest days (cue: 'Longest Days', another beautifully tender acoustic piece.)
Moments later, we're reminded of the rebel we have in Mellencamp as he lights up a cigarette on stage!!
He then shares some background on his previous dating relationship with actress Joanne Woodward. He later asked Woodward if she would consider reading of his songs to poetry. He apparently then records her doing spoken word to his 'The Real Life'. During the concert he plays the recording, and has 2 musicians at the front of the stage accompanying the reading via accordion and violin.
During 'Crumblin' Down' / 'Gloria', John opens this part up in order to allow each of his backing instrumentalists to have a solo on the stage. The night caps off with a crowd-participating rendition of 'Chasing Rainbows' during which Mellencamp taught the song's chorus to the crowd, and we sang our hearts out.
'Cherry Bomb' was the song to finish off tonight's event.
I believe that the key to a great concert goes beyond just the performance itself. The really great shows occur when you get some type of personal introspection, and get a sense of who they are and what they were thinking behind some of these songs they perform. Although I wasn't a fan of the darn-near half-hour video opening, I do appreciate having gotten a glimpse of what Mellencamp appreciated as a classic film enthusiast. Through the cigarette-smoking, you got a confirmation that the rebel-image he portrayed through his music, might have truly been an accurate description of this man who appeared to cower to no man's (or venue's) rules. I absolutely loved hearing the endearing story of his grandmother, his reflection on the impact that was made when his life crossed paths with a random homeless stranger, and numerous other quick references said in passing throughout the night. Mellencamp's homeland sound brought me back to a piece of Americana to which I had grown up listening, and I was taken back through so many memories from so long ago.
His music is simple, and tells wonderful stories while painting countless mental images in the audiences' minds. I enjoyed the concert alot, and for nearly 2 hours I was able to re-live many life moments in my mind.
Thank you for sharing tonight, Mr. Mellencamp, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to re-open forgotten parts of my past tonight.