No encore? Forgivable when you have just witnessed a hall of famer perform with an amazing band backing him up.
Still, when John Mellencamp left the South Okanagan Events Centre stage on Thursday evening after saying thank you to the crowd, one would expect an encore. In fact, the whole building did. The SOEC shook with cheers and people pounding on the floor, stage and seats wanting more for about four minutes until they realized the road crew was actually packing up. It would have been the perfect time for Hurts So Good, which was missed during the approximate 90-minute concert which had the Cowboy Junkies as the opening act, a role they will have for the Canadian dates on the No Better Than This Tour.
But, I digress. Mellencamp came out rocking with Authority Song and laid back with No One Cares About Me on the stage, which was dressed like it was out of the Footloose barn dance with strings of lights hanging from the rafters, a sepia backdrop and perfect lighting. It was an intimate feel, despite, the SOEC appearing to be almost sold out. No One Cares About Me was recorded at Sun Studios in 2009 for his No Better Than This album which upon release, Mellencamp told the Rolling Stone that he was “done being a rock star” and he has no interest in having the biggest concerts, only “to have fun while we’re doing this and maybe have something that somebody might discover.”
It could be the reason why the SOEC audience saw stripped down versions and different arrangements of some of his biggest hits.
Mellencamp seemed to loosen up for Check It Out, handing out high fives to those at the front of the stage. The lights dimmed and the band took a breather as the spotlight centered on Mellencamp who stood alone with an acoustic guitar.
“I came one million miles to see you folks tonight,” he said before garnering the loudest cheers of the night to this point by simply stating “a little ditty.”
The crowd immediately recognized what was next and sang right along with Mellencamp for Jack & Diane, and he applauded them in return.
“I’m going to be playing all kinds of songs you may know or don’t know. Sing along if you know them, or if you are waiting for a particular song, wait for it, we will get around to it, probably,” he told the crowd.
Mellencamp told a story about his grandma, who called him Buddy. She inspired him to write the song Longest Days. He imparted some wisdom to the crowd stating “this life is short, even in its longest days.”
He finished off the acoustic set with a version of Small Town that the crowd ate up with violinist Miriam Strum and accordionist Troye Kinnett adding a beautiful accompaniment.
Mellencamp guitarist, Andy York, promised the Western News a “balls out” rock ‘n’ roll show and for the third segment of the concert and that is what the audience got. The speakers seemed to turn up a little louder for the final set that kicked off with Rain On The Scarecrow. The set was topped off with Paper and Fire, Crumbling Down, R.O.C.K in the USA and a rendeition of Pink Houses that had one gentleman dancing his heart out on the stairs of section 109-110.
Mellencamp then brought the house down with Cherry Bomb. The band exited the stage and Mellencamp gracefully bowed to each section of the crowd.
When you have a legendary artist like Mellencamp performing songs that span his amazing career of rock ‘n’ roll to folk/blues tunes, it really can’t get no better than this.