John Mellencamp – Live and in Person 2023 Tour
Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, BC
March 13 and March 14, 2023
With the imagery of 1952’s A Street Car Named Desire as background, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter John Mellencamp performed two sold out shows in Vancouver. Presented by longtime promoter AEG Presents and sponsored by Turner Classic Movies, the John Mellencamp Live and in Person 2023 massive 76-dates tour began in Bloomington, Indiana last February 5 and 6 and will come full circle in South Bend, Indiana on June 23 and 24.
Each show on the tour starts with a 30-minute video of film scenes and of Mellencamp talking about the films that have had an impact on his music. He talks about how Cool Hand Luke influenced his approach to painting. “It’s my favourite place to be in the world to be in this art studio. It’s so quiet here, that it’s deafening. I get up, have breakfast, come up here, work for for six or seven hours. This is a place for my imagination, to be alone.” Mellencamp talked about how he used to try to control his paintings, but no longer does that anymore. And that he doesn’t do that with his songs. “I don’t try to control them. I prefer to to let a song take itself where it wants to go, have its own personality. The object of all of this is to learn the rules and then break them. You know who told me that? Cool Hand Luke, when I was fifteen.” Mellencamp about his comfort films, films that he’s watched a million times. These films relax him. But now, he watches them for a different reason. “What can I spot. I’ve seen the film twenty times. Then it becomes likes a problem solving thing.
Solving problems relaxes the mind. That’s what painting does. Writing songs. You know, you gotta find that one line like life is short even in the longest days. Once you have that one true line, then you are on your way.”
There are fools and idiots everywhere, including in Vancouver. These are the idiots that talk through entire shows and the idiots that think they are funny when they scream out stupidities. These are the morons with record collections that don’t go beyond 1989’s The Lonesome Jubilee. On both nights and on this tour, after performing the first four song (John Cockers, Paper in Fire, Minutes to Memories, and Small Town), John Mellencamp introduced himself.
“Good evening you guys, I’m John Mellencamp.” The audience erupting in approval as Mellencamp briefly paused before continuing. “Now, we came all the way from Indiana to play for you people tonight. So, here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to be doin’ some songs that you know . . . some songs you don’t know . . . some songs you can dance to . . . and some songs you can sing along with. We’re going to be doing all kinds of songs for you folks tonight, so let’s try to get together a little community amongst ourselves and have a good time.”
The great new song, Hey God, was then performed. It was followed by Human Wheels, Don’t Need This Body, Jackie Brown, and Check It Out.
Mellencamp then made an announcement that fell on deaf ears.
“Alright. I’m going to give you a public service announcement here. This is the part of the show where if you are one of these loud motherfuckers that scream during the quiet parts, would you go out in the hallway, and do it because some people came here to listen to music. So, during these quiet sessions, I would appreciate a little co-operation. Please be respectful and if you want to scream, please fuckin’ go in the hallway and do it.”
John continued by asking if any in the audience had ever gone down to Portland, Oregon. Right away, some female idiot screamed. “Shut up. I’ll give you the microphone if you come up and show your ass.” Mellencamp said. “I don’t understand why people pay money. . . I don’t get it. Anyway. Before I was so rudely interrupted.” Little Bastard resumed and talked about how Portland doesn’t take good care of their people and about five years ago when he was at this “fancy restaurant with these fancy people,” a girl about twenty-five years old kept walking back and forth in front of the window. “She was very manic.” John added. He went outside and asked her if there was anything he could do for her. She told him that she wanted to go home. Mellencamp offered to buy her a bus ticket but she told him that she lived five hundred miles away from Portland and that her family did not want her to come home. John then asked her if he could give her some money to which she asked him if she needed to have sex with him. Mellencamp gave her some money and said that she immediately took off running. He talked about how he thought of this girl and wondered if she’s okay or even still alive. John wrote a song about her titled The Eyes of Portland, this new song he performed with his acoustic guitar and harmonica, singing
The fallen and forgotten
Who are down on their knees
Living in the gutters
In the land of the free
The quiet acoustic part of the show continued with a story about John’s grandmother who lived to be 100 years old. John told the audience that when she was dying, he’d go over to see her. “She said, ‘You know, Buddy, if you don’t stop that cussing and this wild way of life you’re living, you’re not going to get into heaven,’” he said using the nickname his grandmother always called him. “I’m going to die soon.” she told John who was 40 at the time. “I’m going to be in heaven a long time before you get there. I’ll be talking to people and perhaps I can get you in.” she continued. John’s reply was “Ah great, the fix is in.” and her response was “I don’t know if it works that way.” as the audience erupted in laughter. John’s grandmother talked about praying. Mellencamp adding the next thing he hears is “And me and Buddy are ready to come home.” from his grandmother. “Woah, Grandma. Buddy is not ready,” John telling her that he had more sinning to do. Mellencamp finished by saying to the audience, “That life is short even in its longest days.” before playing the beautiful Longest Days, the opening track from 2008’s excellent Life Death Love and Freedom.
John Mellencamp is friend with Joanne Woodward, widow of Paul Newman. Mellencamp would take an offstage break as the recording of poetic readings of The Real Life by the actress was played. The recording which appears on 2010’s retrospective box set, On the Rural Route 7609 was accompanied by Lisa Germano on violin and Troye Kinnet on accordion.
The Lonesome Jubilee, Scarecrow, Uh-huh, and American Fool, all albums from the 80s represented more than sixty percent of the show.
John finally introduced his band near the end of the show, after Pink Houses was performed. Troye Kinnett (accordion and keyboards), Lisa Germano (violin and mandolin), Andy York (guitar), Dane Clark (drums), John Gunnel (bass) and “this guy here for 50 years, on guitar, Mike Wanchic” as John was looking at him. “Can you guys imagine how much this fuckin’ guy hates me? He’s been in my band for 50 years. He’s had to listen to my shit for 50 years. Mike and I are not as stupid as we look, because Mike and I never sleep at night. We take naps. We don’t sleep at night. Have you ever heard of anyone dying while taking a nap? No. Because they always die in their sleep. So, I can call Mike at any fuckin’ time. Day or night.” concluded Mellencamp.
Mellencamp’s longing for those young boy days are over. Both evenings had identical setlists and would end with Hurts So Good, from 1982’s breakthrough album, American Fool.
Paper in Fire
Minutes to Memories
Hey God (new song)
Don’t Need This Body
Check It Out
The Eyes of Portland (new song)
Jack & Diane
I Always Lie to Strangers
The Real Life
Rain on the Scarecrow
Lonely Ol’ Night
Crumblin’ Down / Gloria
Hurts So Good