From chest pounding rock to acoustic John Mellencamp concert review

The Halifax concert was everything John Mellencamp fans wanted from the 80s icon of the American heartland

John Mellencamp Halifax Concert 2012 (photo Dawn-Marie Sloane with permission)

3,500 fans packed the Dartmouth Sportsplex to rock the night away with John Mellencamp on his No Better Than This Tour.

Halifax NS got a two-night stand on July 9th and 10th, 2012.

The fans who filled the arena both nights were an eclectic mix of country and city, bikers, insurance agents in disguise, mothers letting go for a night, couples reliving the 80s, aging boomers and the young. Except for a teen, who sat disinterestedly with her mother, the crowd loved Mellencamp.

He started hot and ended with chest pumping rock and roll, the lights up and everyone dancing to “Cherry Bomb.”

Last night the Cowboy Junkies proved they could turn up the volume and heat in the right company during the opening set. They had a new grungy, distorted sound that was not featured on “The Wilderness“.

John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp is one of the great American rock and roll artists. His act is different from most with strong country roots of middle America. It includes acoustic and electric guitars, an accordion player and Appalachian fiddle music. We call that Celtic fiddle music in Canada.

Last night he had almost the same band set-up when I saw him in the late 1980s touring to promote “The Lonesome Jubilee” – acoustic and electric bass, violin, accordion and organ, lead and rhythm guitars and both a small and full set of drums.

This allowed Mellencamp change the dynamics and heat up the concert as the night went on. He opened with a hot “Authority Song” with the small drum kit and violin.

In place of the captivating and talented nymph Lisa Germano on violin, last night we heard Lisa Strum, an equally captivating and talented violin nymph.

The downside is that Mellencamp, while holding his old fans, is probably not winning over many young people, like the teenager near us. Whatever!

Cherry Bomb finale John Mellencamp, Halifax, NS

The ‘Cherry Bomb’ fan video, for which we thank them, can’t convey the sound volume of the band and bass. It whacked you in the chest and MADE you dance. Talk about thrills – I was up on one crutch, for the love of God, dancing like I was 20 again. Everyone was pretty well out of control by then.

John Mellencamp Hits

John Cougar Mellencamp is a rocker with more than 40 million records sold and 22 Top 40 hits. There was not enough time to play them all but we got a good dose – Jack and Diane, Rain on the Scarecrow, Pink Houses (my fave), Cherry Bomb, Authority Song, Paper and Fire, ‘Crumbling Down.


Jack and Diane, singalong John Mellencamp Halifax, NS

The crowd sang ‘Jack and Diane’ and got ahead of Mellencamp after the first verse but he brought them back in line.

John Mellencamp was relaxed with the audience and at the end of “Jack and Diane” he gives a moving narration of a story about some of his grandmother’s last words which segues into “Longest Days.”

“But nothing lasts forever
Your best efforts don’t always pay
Sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better
That’s when life is short even in its longest days” (words by John Mellencamp)

That has special significance to Mellencamp who suffered a serious heart attack, after the words from his grandmother, in 1994 and was forced to take a year off. Mellencamp has lived without any addictions to drugs or alcohol but is addicted to tobacco which didn’t help his heart.

You would never know he had health issues since he rocked almost like his glory days in the 80s and early 90s.


“Small Town” by John Mellencamp Halifax NS Concert

Photo and video credits

Thanks to Dawn-Marie Sloane for her photographs of the July 10th show,  jeffc113 and carmelsvideos for the fan videos. Despite the misguided ban by the artists and event management, most people have a smart phone and took pictures.

Fan photos and videos are a fact of life that keeps fans interested in their favorite artists. Fan videos are not a substitute for real CDs and videos unless you like your video giggly with the odd comment by an excited camera person. They do promote the artists and that is life today.

No Better Than This Tour more dates

The No Better Than This Tour moves on to Ottawa Ontario July 12th then Sarnia and Oshawa, ON.

On July 30, John Mellencamp will be in San Jose California to receive the John Steinbeck Award. He will join Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez and Jackson Browne receiving the honor for his dedication to political activism.

“John Steinbeck’s remarkable ability to give voice to the common man and to people on society’s margins,” said Mellencamp, “to describe their plight and aspirations, continues to inspire us more than a century after his birth. I’m very honored to be the recipient of an award given in his name.”

John Mellencamp will also appear at Farm Aid on September 22, 2012.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

Other reviews

Jazz Is Dead Hail Hail Rock and Roll

Mellencamp wows fans with rock-and-roll dance party  wrote Stephen Cooke in the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

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