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John Mellencamp Was Rocking in the First of Two Shows at Stifel Theatre Friday Night

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

 

–by Randy Thompson and Vicki Lee

–Photos by Laura Tucker/Laura Tucker Photography

 

John Mellencamp has long been more than the heart and soul of Midwest rock and roll. He is a rock balladeer with a vocal conscience, who writes for all of us everywhere, including the disenfranchised.  He’s been doing this for over fifty years, and Friday night, at the beautiful Stifel Theatre in downtown Saint Louis, his fans were able to savor music that has remained relevant and entertaining even up to his latest release, the incredibly powerful “Hey God”.

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

His first single from his upcoming album Orpheus Descending is a stunningly fierce and piercing song that rips away the lie at the heart of American political hypocrisy. While it is a new release, it reminds us that he has always written hit songs with catchy melodies and deep, resonant meaning.  Mellencamp is as much a classic rock superstar as he is a truly honest and searingly insightful writer of music that has a unique power to it. His long string of hits can be misleading because his music has always had a human relevance and soul that is held up by the radio-friendly melodies that he presents with a rock and roll heart.

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

The evening’s festivities began with a showing of film clips that come from the library of TMC and are personal favorites of John Mellencamp. He narrates his thoughts and feelings about some classic films including On the Waterfront, Hud, The Fugitive Kind, Giant, Paper Moon, and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, among other classic films. During the clips John speaks about the connection between these movies and the music and art that he creates and their power to transport you back to a place and time that is meaningful to you in that moment.

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

After the film clips were shown, the stage descended into darkness, ominous red sirens flashed, and blaring tornado warning sounds filled the hall. This went on for a minute or two, and when it all stopped, the screen was raised revealing the band. The crowd roared their approval and excitement.  Mellencamp and the band started playing and didn’t take a break the rest of the night.  A single shot from A Streetcar Named Desire as background remained as well as mannequins on stage dressed as characters from the clips, a constant reminder of the movies and their relevance to Mellencamp’s life.

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

Longtime friends and band mates such as guitarist, Mike Manchic, who’s been playing with John for almost 50 years and violinist, Lisa Germano, who began her career with him 30 years ago rocked through the set, starting with “John Cocker” and moving into “Paper to Fire”. We were told at the beginning by Mellencamp that the concert had a mix of “stuff that you know and stuff that you don’t know, stuff that you’ll dance to, and stuff that you’ll listen to”; but for most of the show, he had the audience on their feet clapping, singing along and rocking! Near the midpoint in the performance after a rousing version of “Check It Out”, the band stepped off stage and Mellencamp appeared with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica strapped around his neck.

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

He sang the heart wrenching “Eyes of Portland” and then “Longest Day”.  He brought the mood back up as he and the audience sang the rock and roll classic “Jack and Diane” together in a very intimate and humorous way. The singer gently chastised the audience for skipping the second line and going straight to the chorus, which they all knew by heart. He also reminded them when the bridge to the song was coming up, his fans laughed along with his gentle chiding. Ending this acoustic part of the concert was the moment when he spoke about his friendship with Joanne Woodward, the legendary actress. He described how she had asked to read his song lyrics as poetry. And then, hauntingly, her voice was heard throughout the auditorium, reading the lyrics to the song, “The Real Life”. It was an emotionally stirring presentation that caught most by surprise.

John Mellencamp performing at Stifel Theatre in Saint Louis. Photo by Laura Tucker/ Laura Tucker Photography.

The full band (guitarist Andrew Yorke, drummer Dane Clark, bassist John Gunelli, Pianist Troye Kinnett, along with Manchic and Germano) returned with a vengeance as they played “Rain on the Scarecrow” and moved through a series of Mellencamp’s most beloved songs like “Crumbling Down” and “Pink Houses”.  It is safe to say that no one sat down for the second half of the show!  After two hours of nonstop performing Mellencamp announced the evening was ending with the song “Cherry Bomb” but then stayed on, to the crowd’s delight, to play “It Hurts So Good”. It was an evening filled with the pragmatism and joy of Mellencamp’s music.  We can’t wait for more and we have a feeling he’s not done with us yet.

 

Set List

John Cockers

Paper To Fire

You Are the Future

Small Town

Hey God

Human Wheel

Jackie Brown

Check It Out

The Eyes of Portland

Longest Days

Jack and Diane

The Real Life

Rain on the Scarecrow

Lonely Ol’ Night

What If I Came Knocking

Crumblin’ Down

Gloria (covered Van Morrison/Them)

Pink Houses

Cherry Bomb

Hurts So Good

 

One thought on “John Mellencamp Was Rocking in the First of Two Shows at Stifel Theatre Friday Night

  • Tamara Krumwiede

    The show was exactly as described in the review…an absolute delight! Tickets to the show were a Christmas gift from my husband, and I eagerly awaited the show date since last December. Mellencamp did not disappoint!

    Reply

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