Saturday, April 22, 2006

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

John Mellencamp @ the Joyce Arena in South Bend IN.

April 18th, 2006

Set list

Our Country (new song),

Small Town,
Love and Happiness,

Check It Out,

Jackie Brown,
Rain On The Scarecrow,

Paper In Fire,
Drum Extravaganza,
Authority Song,
Jack & Diane,
Crumblin' Down,
Hurts So Good,
Pink Houses,
Band Introductions/Encore,
Walk Tall,

Cherry Bomb.

Well, I'd love to have done this write-up when we got home Tuesday night / Wednesday morning, while my eardrums were still reverberating from the joyous sound of 8,000 or so voices singing along with the band, but my eyes were just too heavy and I knew that 6am would be here before I was ready for it so......I crashed.

Back to the beginning....I left work right at 3pm, stopped home long enough to change clothes and pick up Chris before pointing the van South and heading for Indiana. The ride down was uneventful and other than overshooting the mark and having to turn around a couple blocks South of the arena and head back, there were no problems with the destination either. After a quick check at the door we decided to get a bite to eat. We headed down the street and around the corner to the Tastee Freeze....errrr Diary Queen actually :-) for a quick burger and fries. By the time we got back to the arena it was a tick after 7pm and there was a considerable line formed at the doors. A couple minutes after we got there they opened the doors and everyone strolled inside in an orderly fashion. We headed right for our seats, row 8, seats 3 & 4, and got ready for the show.

The warm up act for John was a "Country" act called "Little Big Town" who came out and did a solid 50 minutes worth of music. I know they've got a hit or two, but there was nothing in their set that rang a bell for me. The band consisted of two guys on guitars and two girls with microphones along with some back-up players on drums, bass & guitar. Listenable stuff to be sure, but we'd made the trip down to South Bend for Mr. Mellencamp and his entourage, so anything less was just filler.

It was just about 9:25pm when the lights went down and music started to emanate from behind a black curtain. It wasn't long before that curtain fell and the band was there, playin' away. A minute later John entered from the back of the stage, wearing the uniform of the endangered species known as “Blue Collar working man” and things took off with a new song called “Our Country”. It was Mellencamp quality all the way. From the new tune he went directly to an old classic “Small Town” and then off to probably, if not my all time favorite, certainly one of the top 5, ”Love and Happiness”. The two most important words in the search for a fulfilling life. The volume control has gone immediately to 9.5 every time that tune has been played in my presence for the last 15 years or so. Even though John’s playing a different arrangement of the song these days I’m still diggin’ it just as much as ever.

The highlight to “Check it Out” was the spot where John simply forgot a line to his own tune. An understandable situation when you’ve written as many great tunes as John has done. It was fun to see him take a look down at the set list taped to the monitor and see him chuckle about it……John’s intro to Jackie Brown got me thinking about people I grew up with and wondering how they’ve faired in their lives. The song hits close to home for me because somewhere out there I’ve got a brother who I haven’t seen since 1986. A brother who just never got it together and I

expect never will. I wouldn’t know how to contact him even if I had something to say.

“Rain On The Scarecrow” and “Paper in Fire” were both done with fire and passion. It’s hard, if not impossible, not to be caught up in the song when the man sings it from his guts. “The drum extravaganza” and “Authority Song” were awesome. Being a drummer of sorts I dug it and my 14 year old son who came with me (his 2nd Mellencamp show) and plays my drums more than I do these days even let his guard down for a couple minutes and got into the awesome display of percussion. He was also diggin’ the new version of the “Authority Song” with it’s heavy metal, power chording style that Andy was banging out……not to mention the lyrics as he’d just had to make a visit to his probation officer the other day. He’s been having a bit of trouble with the law himself lately. Jack & Diane was the next tune and the line “hold on to 16 as long as you can, changes come ‘round real soon to make us women and men” was never more true and heartfelt. I’d never thought at 16 that I’d make it to 53 and not only make it, but I’ve become a grandparent in the last year to boot and although I haven’t seen the little critter in person yet (his mom and dad are in the Army in Germany right now) just the fact that he’s out there somewhere makes me feel different about life.

The rest of the set was just a barrage of one awesome tune after another, delivered with the energy and enthusiasm of someone who’s lovin’ what they’re doing. It was easy to see that John and the whole band for that matter was having a blast and it came out thru the speakers loud and clear. One of the high points for me, although I don’t recall what tune it was during, was when John did some dancing over on the right side of the stage. Christopher, my son, pokes me in the side and says “He sure thinks he’s all that don’t he?” to which I replied….”buddy, he’s been doing that for the last 30 years and He IS all that!” That got a smile out of him and a nod of the head. About as much acceptance for something I love from him at his age as I’m ever gonna get I’m sure.

There were other great moments that pop to mind besides the spot in “Check it Out” where he forgot a line to the tune…..the boog-a-loo dance that he and Pat do during R.O.C.K in the U.S.A…..seen it before but, still enjoy the interaction.....a couple, mostly failed, attempts to dance with Miriam around the stage. One of the best moments was later in the show. There was a girl holding up her phone so that whoever was on the other end could hear some live Mellencamp and all of a sudden John grabs the phone out of her hand, sings full tilt into the phone for a couple lines and then tosses the phone back to the owner. I couldn't help but imagine what the person on the other end was thinking at the time and how they felt when they found out exactly what happened.

All in all it was a great show from start to finish and the only complaint that I could possibly have was that it was over too quick. After the last strains of “Cherry Bomb” had echoed their way out of the arena we were still sitting there, watching the roadies tear down the stage. We sat there, not in a big hurry to go home until the guys packing up the chairs reached our row. At that point it was time to hit the road, but not before we both got a new T-shirt for our collections.


P.S. Thanks to SharonC for the Set list and Tony B for the excellent Stage shot above.

Thanks also to Club Cherry Bomb & the whole Mellencamp organization for the great seats.

Lets do it again real soon!

UPDATE - 05/21/06

Thanks To one of the guys on the Human Wheels Mailing list we now own a 2-CD copy of this concert, recorded live in Atlantic City. It sounds great and it's cool having a recorded version of pretty much exactly what we saw in South Bend, give or take a comment or two from John. I am currently designing a CD Cover and labels for the CD's themselves so that the package will look as good as it sounds and when that's ready to go I'll be offering it up to the mailing list as a small way of saying thanks for the live music.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tom Petty / The Last DJ

Tom Petty has been around now for 25+ years. It doesn't seem hardly possible but it's true. He was one of the very few great one's to come along about the same time the '80's arrived. A mostly forgetable decade for a Rock n' Roller. There's darn few tunes that Tom Petty has put on a record in the timespan between '79 and now that I don't know all the words to, but this album is something special. "The Last DJ" came out sometime during 2002 and here it is 2006 and I'm still rockin' out to this bunch of tunes on a weekly basis.

Like myself, Tom Petty has reached the age of official curmudgenoness. He's pissed off and don't really care who knows it. He's here to say what he's got to say, so shut up and listen..............

The Last DJ..... any album that starts off like this......."Well you can't turn him into a company man, you can't turn him into a whore and the boys upstairs just don't understand anymore" is gonna be a no punches pulled ass kickin' event and this tune sets the pace for the whole experience. "There goes your freedom of choice, there goes the last human voice, there goes the last dj" I doubt "the boys upstairs" ever had a freakin clue to start with....
Money Becomes King....a song about the music industry these days with the accent on wasn't that long ago when "We'd all get so excited when John would give a show, we'd raise the cash between us and down the road we'd go, to hear him play that music it spoke right to my soul, every verse a diamond and every chorus gold". Can't tell ya how many times that was the case.....back in the days before money became king.
Dreamville.......a song about younger days and the fact that you just can't go back home again........"a long time ago, a million miles away, all the trees were green, in Dreamville".
Joe.....Fat, stubby, cigar chomping, bad suit wearing jackass who wouldn't know a good tune if it slapped him across his fat chops. "They get to be famous, I get to be rich....My name's Joe, I'm the CEO....I'm the man that makes the big wheels roll". Makes me think Woodstock is just down the road from Dreamville.
When a Kid Goes Bad... "Some momma's cryin', some daddy's sad, when a kid goes bad" I can relate to this one on a fairly personal level at the present time, but I'm hoping things will turn around. Hard these days to listen to this tune and not think of Columbine. Wake up people, environment plays a bigger part in development then you might want to admit. Piling a load of shit in a empty vessel doesn't gaurantee you'll grow flowers...........TV and video game violence aren't exactly driving hordes of kids towards the Peace Corps.
Like A Diamond....a love song amongst all the crap and turmoil. "If you're lonely and behind the wheel, when the ground gives way, you have to pray, to the unknown and hope it's real"
Lost Children...."Lord please watch over all these lost children, born to chase a hurricane. Please shine some light down on those who wander, filled with hunger and pain". This one almost makes me cry. If it wasn't for the guitar break it'd be hard to get thru. I personally dedicate this tune to all parents who are struggling, trying to raise solid children in this fractured world.....
Blue Sunday.....a story about two people on their way to places unknown who find comfort in each other's company for a short while....."When it's time to leave you go.....".
You & Me....I truly love this song and if I have my way whoever is left when I pass on will play this tune at some point during whatever type of ceremony they all decide is appropriate. I doubt I'll care at that point, but I want this song played and played at a decent volume. To really do it right someone should be singing along too in my absense. "Whereever the wind might blow, whereever the river rolls, you know I will go with you, just you and me and the road ahead" If it'd been around when I got married I'd have used it for that event too....... a song for all life.
The Man Who Loves Women...... a "lite" tune. Not sure I understand the real unlying message here, if in fact there is one, but it's a great tune to sing and dance along with, I give it a 8.5!
Have Love Will Travel.......I have some lines from this tune in my sigfile at the current time, but for this entry I'll quote some different that guitar riff........"And if perhaps I lose you, in the smoke down the road, I want you to know, you were the one.....and may my love travel with you everywhere, may my love travel with you always". Another great love song.
Can't Stop The Sun...Talk about ending this masterpiece on a postive note......."You may think it's all over, but there'll be more just like me, who won't give in, who'll rise again, can't stop a man from dreaming, on and on and on................" and then some great guitar just in case there was any doubt at all....(none here Tom).

My only worry at this point is that when the next one (album) comes out it's not gonna live up to expectations after this one. In my eyes he could say "that's it, I've said all I've got to say" and walk off into the sunset but I sure hope that never happens........on the upside I just got an email from his mailing list that says he's touring this summer and by God if he comes anywhere near here I'll be there, up towards the front, one way or another........


UPDATE - 5/19/06

I finally got my copy of the "Live at the Olympic" DVD, which is The Last DJ album in video format. Needless to say it is quite good, although I tend to get irritated with the camera boys cuz they seem to think it's artsy, craftsy to jump from person to person and scene to scene like they're running a machine gun instead of filming a live concert with a camera. Boys, just for the record...... I'd like to actually be able to focus on what the guitar player is doing or watch Tom sing a whole verse without shots of people in the audience sandwiched inbetween every 3.7 seconds.
Other than that one cinematic bitch, I have no complaints with the package. It's great music and very interesting to watch 'em play it live with a full Ochestra and all the trappings. Plus, there's bonus video material. After they get done playing the entire Last DJ album they go on and rock out on 6 more tunes including "Maryjane's Last Dance" & "I Need to Know". Plus.....there's an audio CD with 4 or 5 newer tunes on it. I haven't had a chance to get to that yet, but I will soon.......I'd reccommend this DVD highly if you're any kinda Tom Petty fan at all