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Culture Shock
<p>John Mellencamp Live On Tour. Muncie, Indiana.</p>
John Mellencamp Live On Tour. Muncie, Indiana.

A Night With John Mellencamp

Let me set the scene, it’s 8:00 pm on a Friday night and John Mellencamp is playing Emens Auditorium in Muncie, IN. The lights go down, tension begins to build, a buzzing in the room commences, and on comes a screen in which The Fugitive Kind begins playing. A bold choice that I think Mellencamp set up perfectly. It was one of the most interesting opening acts I have ever witnessed, playing scenes from other classics, like Hud, Grapes of Wrath, The Misfits, and finally wrapping it up with the Marlon Brando classic A Streetcar Named Desire. It sucked me into this world of the wild west, the plights of the working man, and being a fugitive of the law and left the audience with a polite reminder to mind their manners. Then the sirens on the wings commenced and the band entered on to the stage with blazing force, kicking the show off with John Cockers.” 

Aiding in his working man image, John was dressed the part in standard coveralls while the rest of the band contrasted in black tie attire. They played a few more before going into “Small Town,” in which Muncie took no time to jump up and start singing along, creating a breathtaking community all present to enjoy good music. After “Small Town” John got on the mic and announced to the crowd what they were in for that night. He said he was “gonna play some songs you know and some songs you don’t know. Some songs you can sing along with and some you can dance to.” After learning about the recent news of the incident between him and a heckler at one of the shows prior, his short P.S.A. he made was more than well warranted. He went on to follow the statement with a few more songs with the whole band, like “Jackie Brown” and “Check It Out” before briefly walking off stage.

Then swiftly Mellencamp returned toting an acoustic guitar in which he played a few songs, including the moving song “Longest Days,” before playing the crowd an acoustic version of “Jack and Diane.” Unlike others, who would have liked to hear that song done in the style of the studio recording, I was all in for the acoustic version. I felt that it made the experience more intimate and aided in the show environment that he was trying to create. The crowd took the song over in every chorus and delivered a hair-standing energy. He completed the acoustic section with the moving spoken word with an instrumental underscore of the Joanne Woodward poem “The Real Life.” This added an element that was described by Violinist Lisa Germano that this is “not your typical rock concert” and with this segment they “want to make a more intimate experience.”

Following the acoustic portion, he brought the band back on stage, and they wasted no time playing the hits, finishing the show off with timeless classics, like “Rain on the Scarecrow,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Pink Houses,” and “Hurts So Good.” Overall, the show was great and was exactly what I wanted to experience at a John Mellencamp show. It seems that as time progresses his live act is developing into the sphere of what we see from artists like Bob Dylan, where music lovers like myself are happy not if he doesn’t play all the hits, but to be engaged with his artistry and all-encompassing performance. Seeing John Mellencamp is something I highly recommend, but approach it with an open mind and an interested ear.


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