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5 Takeaways From John Mellencamp at Ovens Auditorium

John Mellencamp raises his hand on the air while performing on stage with a guitar
John Mellencamp proved to the Charlotte crowd on Feb. 8 that he’s still got it. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

It’s hard to believe that John Mellencamp is 71 years old. Now on the road as part of his Live and In Person Tour, it seems like yesterday that I was a kid watching his videos on MTV … back when MTV used to play music videos.

Here’s five takeaways from the heartland rocker’s concert at Ovens Auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 8:

1. It was movie night, too. The first 30 minutes of the night were spent watching clips of old movies from the 1950s. Sure, they helped pass the time at first, but after about 15 minutes, the crowd started getting restless with each new clip. Scenes from a wide range of movies, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Hud, and On the Waterfront set the tone only in that there were four mannequins on the stage that resembled Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and others, while the backdrop looked like a scene out of Streetcar. I think most in the audience would have preferred a 30-minute set from just about anyone instead.

2. He’s still got it. Sure, all of the smoking over the years has weathered Mellencamp’s voice considerably, but he can still hit most of the notes. Sure, he relied on the audience or his band for a handful of big choruses and singalongs, but when it was time to hit a power note, Mellencamp never held back and belted notes out like he was 40 years younger. 

3. He’s “not for everyone anymore.” It was approximately halfway through his hour-and-45-minute set on before Mellencamp finally addressed the crowd. “Hey, if you’re one of those cocksuckers who likes to yell during the quiet part of the show, take that bullshit into the hallway…” he told the sold-out auditorium. “I hate that … and I’m sorry, but maybe I’m not for everyone anymore.” Up until that point, Mellencamp was focused on the music. After his quick rant, he opened up a bit more, telling a couple of stories and getting annoyed when the crowd skipped the second verse of “Jack & Diane.” “Do you know how long it took me to write that fuckin’ verse?” he asked the crowd. “And you just kicked it aside and jumped straight to the chorus.” Though it might read a bit ornery, Mellencamp didn’t seem mean spirited in any of his profanity-laced commentaries.

John Mellencamp points to the crowd while performing on stage with a guitar
John Mellencamp sang all his hits, and then some, during his set at Ovens Auditorium. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

4. Leave ’em wanting more. Mellencamp performed for an hour and 45 minutes and packed in plenty of hits, such as “Pink Houses,” a solo acoustic “Jack & Diane,” a powerful combination of “Crumblin’ Down” and “Gloria” and more. However, there were plenty of hits he left out, such as “Authority Song,” “Wild Night,” and “Ain’t Even Done with the Night.” That being said, I’m just impressed he’s still on the road at 71 and appears to be enjoying every moment. He noted that time seems to go by even faster as you get older.

John Mellencamp points to the crowd while performing on stage with a guitar
The Feb. 8 show had its fair share of profanity-laced commentaries by John Mellencamp. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

5. That stinks. What’s the downside of being in a crowded auditorium when the energy is high and the crowd’s loving every minute of the performance? The smells. Maybe I’m getting a bit old and ornery, and this has nothing to do with Mellencamp himself, but before going to a concert, do those around you a favor — be careful what you eat so you’re not ripping farts trying to make your own drum beat, and don’t wear enough perfume/cologne so that the person next to you can taste it. It’s times like this that I miss wearing a mask.

Setlist
John Cockers
The Eyes of Portland
Minutes to Memories
Small Town
Human Wheels
Don’t Need This Body
We Are the People
Jackie Brown
Check It Out
Longest Days
Sometimes There’s God
Jack & Diane
I Always Lie to Strangers
The Real Life (Joann Woodward spoken word)
Rain on the Scarecrow
Paper in Fire
Crumblin’ Down / Gloria
Pink Houses
Chasing Rainbows
Cherry Bomb
Hurts So Good


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