ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 25, 1986
By Steve Newton
He calls himself Little Bastard on his album productions credits, and after meeting John Cougar Mellencamp backstage before last week’s (April 16) Coliseum show, I half understood why. He’s not a bastard. On the contrary he seemed like a very nice fellow, all smiles as he shook hands with various rock reporters and music industry types.
But he is little.
At any rate, the show he put on later that night made him look pretty huge to the 14 thousand-odd fans in attendance.
The concert kicked off with a short acoustic intro, then the curtains around a glossy white stage were pulled, and the band ran out to the familiar chords of “Small Town”. There weren’t even any stage monitors up front to divide Mellencamp from his fans, and the communication between the two was evident from the word go.
“Jack and Diane” came next, followed by a couple of tunes from his latest album Scarecrow. “You sure know how to make a fellow feel at home,” he declared, then asked the people standing on their seats up front to sit down so that others could see. As usual at Coliseum shows, most of them stayed up.
“Rain on the Scarecrow” came next, along with a short spiel on the plight of the American farmer. (Cougar was a major attraction at last year’s Farm Aid benefit concert.) He pulled a male fan from the front row up to sing along on one of this early songs, “Hand to Hold on To”, and brought a roar when he gave the lucky guy the mike and let him sing a verse alone.
Mellencamp hopped on guitarist Larry Crane’s shoulders for the rocking “Rumbleseat”, and his first big hit, “Hurt so Good”, had ’em dancing in the aisles. The twangy guitar intro to his best tune, “The Authority Song”, kept them there.
When Mellencamp left the stage the crowd brought him back for an encore of “Under the Boardwalk”. “Where I come from [Seymour, Indiana] they didn’t have any boardwalks,” he shouted. “But we could sure relate to the hotdogs and the sunshine and the girls!”
After the Mellencamp show it was time for a trip to The Embassy, where members of the New York-based metal band Bon Jovi had congregated. They took the stage for a slinky version of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and their scorching hit single “Runaway”. The group is in town recording their third album, and club manager Ziggi is expecting them at jam night this Wednesday (April 30) as well.