ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 5, 1992
A couple of weeks back, the Straight ran a John Mellencamp interview in which the Indiana man characterized his debut acting/directing effort, Falling from Grace, as “a very slow and methodical movie”. Fortunately for the 13,000 or so rowdies who packed the Coliseum last Wednesday (February 26) for the first night of Mellencamp’s two-show Vancouver booking, the singer’s musical approach is the exact opposite of his celluloid one.
The former Johnny Cougar played it fast and loose and delivered a two-and-a-half-hour barn-burner that even Siskel and Ebert would have given the thumbs-up to.
The most obviously impressive thing about Mellencamp’s show was his killer repertoire. He wasted little or no time with between-song patter—except when introducing numbers about poverty and the plight of the farmer—and kept the train of tunes a-rollin’ with an ace band driven by Kenny Aronoff’s rifle-crack drums and the splendid leads of former Joe Ely guitarist David Grissom.
The band must have cruised through 30 numbers, including “Crumbling Down”, during which the casually clad Mellencamp hopped onto the shoulders of long-time guitarist Mike Wanchic for some acrobatic jollies.
Apart from the fine tunes and informal party feel, the concert also had going for it one of the simplest and most effective stages to ever grace the Pacific Coliseum. There were no lighting rigs or speaker columns to obstruct one’s view of the goings-on, and the only on-stage “prop” was the drum riser itself, which also housed the backup singers, fiddle player, and keyboardist/accordionist.
There weren’t even any monitors poking up, in case feverish fans felt intent on analyzing Mellencamp’s shoe size.
The bare-bones set-up was backed by a large mural that looked like a reproduction of one of Mellencamp’s own paintings, as seen on the cover of his latest release, Whenever We Wanted. But if it were, the budding Renoir didn’t brag, nor did he need to.
He was already the most popular guy in town that night, and probably would be the next one, too.