The Power of Rock John Mellencamp Live at the Coronado Theatre
By Larry Henderson
John Mellencamp could easily play a nostalgia show with his body of work. He could just go out and tour, not put out anything new, and just cash checks. So many 70’s and 80’s bands do. But every few years John and the band enter his Belmont Mall Studio, and we get a new album from the Bloomington, Indiana Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
The latest is 2014’s “Plain Spoken” and the Tour of the same name arrived in Rockford, Illinois to a sold out Coronado Theatre. At 8:30 Central came the announcement; “Ladies and gentleman from Bloomington, Indiana John Mellencamp!” to an appreciatively raucous crowd. John opened with “Lawless Times” and “Troubled Man” off Plain Spoken, then a crowd pleasing version off 1985’s Scarecrow album “Minutes to Memories”, as John and his outstanding band performed brilliantly.
John’s band gets overlooked. They’re a great band! There is band leader Mike Wanchic on guitar, Andy York on guitar, John Gunnel on bass, Dane Clark on drums, Miriam Sturm on violin, and Troye Kinnett on keyboards, piano, and accordion. They’re the best in the business.
John looks and sounds great for his 63 years young, dressed in a black suit and dancing on occasion. I guess 63 is the new 43. John told the audience “if you’re sad, you dance”.
Another Scarecrow classic “Small Town” was next followed by a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in my Passway”, and the crowd became more adoring towards the Seymour, Indiana native. “Human Wheels” was a very pleasant surprise, followed by “The Isolation of Mister” and “Check it Out” and acoustic versions of “Longest Days’ and Jack and Diane”.
On Jack and Diane” he said “The next song I’ve been playing a long time. I don’t even know why I play it, except you love it.” As John laughed, he admits he was multi tasking while writing it, in two different rooms; one room writing, the other - well he never actually admitted, but was understood by the sold out crowd it wasn’t drugs or rock and roll. The song instantly became a loud sing-a-long as the audience jumped the gun on the chorus leaving John no choice but to call them out on it in a slightly chastising but fun way.
Next “The Full Catastrophe” off “Mr. Happy Go Lucky” was just John and Muncie, Indiana native Troye Kinnett and his piano. It was a haunting crowd pleaser turning The Coronado Theatre into 2500 seat intimate piano bar. “Away From This World” and “Tear This Cabin Down”, followed from “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” and he was joined in singing those by opening act Carlene Carter. Next an accordion and violin mini-medley performed by Troye Kinnet and Miriam Sturm featuring the song “I Need a Lover”.
As the band retook the stage - it became a Rock and Roll show as the unmistaken intro to “Rain on the Scarecrow” began, which is still a hard hitting in-your-face live track, same as it was 30 years ago. “Paper in Fire”, “If I Die Sudden”, “Crumblin Down”, “Authority Song”, “Pink Houses” and the encore “Cherry Bomb” closed out this perfect night of Rock in Rockford, Illinois. Two hours of a glorious night of Rock had come to an end and my two and a half hour journey back to the region began, but I smiled the whole way home...
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