Perfecting the lost art of the backstage meet ‘n’ greet at John Mellencamp in Vancouver


By Steve Newton

I like John Mellencamp, but my sister Julie and cousin Cory are crazy about him, so I did some serious scroungin’ and wangled three backstage passes to meet the Indiana rocker before he went on-stage at GM Place last Saturday (May 15).

Now, for those who’ve never experienced what is known in the music industry as a meet ’n’ greet, you basically stand around with a bunch of company jacket–wearing types from local radio stations and CD stores until it’s your turn to pose with the artist for a quick photo. It’s sort of a cheesy ritual, but hey—if it means the world to people you care for, you deal with it.

Besides, before shaking hands with the diminutive Little Bastard—I’m not being rude, that’s what Mellencamp calls himself—I got to rub shoulders with the Comedy Channel’s Mike Bullard, who seems like a real nice guy. I also managed to chat with some members of Mellencamp’s band, who proved equally friendly and unassuming. New drummer Dane Clark was so relaxed that I felt safe commenting about his having big shoes to fill in taking over drum god Kenny Aronoff’s role of 22 years.

“It’s no problem,” replied the bespectacled skin-basher, “no problem at all.”

As soon as the concert started, Clark’s confidence was validated by his deft stickwork on the calypso-tinged “I’m Not Running Anymore”. That was one of only three tunes Mellencamp offered from his new self-titled CD, staying true to his promise to roll out the oldies to please long-time fans. Bolstered by the intense execution of a crack seven-piece band, his 90-minute set featured gutsy versions of “Rain on the Scarecrow”, “The Authority Song”, and “Crumblin’ Down”.

Mellencamp’s own energy level has dropped somewhat since I last saw him, at the Pacific Coliseum prior to his 1994 heart attack, but his vocals are still potent. That said, crackerjack percussionist and backup vocalist Pat Peterson nearly stole the show when she sang the parts recorded by Me’shell Ndegéocello on Mellencamp’s version of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night”.

The crowning moment of the night came when Mellencamp performed a solo rendition of the recent single “Your Time Is Now”, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica. The spare arrangement helped drive home the tune’s homespun, teach-your-children-well theme, and large sections of the crowd erupted in appreciation of his uplifting ode to the simple life.

The wildest cheers were saved for “Small Town”, though, which the muscular Mellencamp sang in a sleeveless white undershirt, causing both of my kin to dance wildly in the aisle. By the time he pulled a freaked-out fan up from the second row to sing a couple of choruses on “Hurts So Good”, it was clear the tattooed grandad had the near-sellout crowd of 13,000 directly under his 47-year-old thumb. Who cares if he can’t shimmy like he used to?

Neither can I.


To hear the audio of my 1999 interview with John Mellencamp subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1995
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

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