John Mellencamp @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
“Keep it small, remember always keep it small, but keep it going.” ~John Mellencamp, opening dialogue, Plain Spoken Netflix documentary.

Due to reviewer tickets not being offered for John Mellencamp’s show at the Stifel Theater in St. Louis, I’m going to assume he could care less if MTC MAG did a review of his show. But I’m not writing a documentary of the show, I’m documenting a piece of Americana history.  Take away the hits, “Jack & Diane”, take away “Pink Houses”, what do you have? You have a man that is hard working, takes no BS, an artist, a man that thinks, and makes you think. Mellencamp projects an uneasiness while performing, further adding to the mystique of an unlikely folk hero.

Paying attention to detail, Mellencamp relays stories from his life to those in attendance. Leading up to the song “Longest Days”, he tells the story of laying in bed with his bedridden 100-year old grandmother. His grandmother prays, telling God that she and Buddy, grandma’s nickname for Mellencamp, we’re ready to come home. Mellencamp screams, “Grandma WTF? Grandma, Buddy is not ready to come home!” “Buddy has a lot more sinning left to do!” Ending the conversation, Grandma gives Mellencamp some sagely advice, “Buddy you will soon find out, life is short, even in it’s longest days.”  Cue the lump in the throat.

Mellencamp has a history of doing things on his own terms, even a few times leaving the music business because it wasn’t on his own terms.  Tonight’s version of “Jack & Diane” is done on his own terms, solo and acoustic. At certain points during this hit, the audience was nearly louder than Mellencamp. Not all of his albums are hits, take for instance 2017’s Sad Clowns and Hillbillies. But there are hidden gems in these albums, you just gotta listen!

Which leads me to the song, “Easy Target”. Violinist, Miriam Sturm and keyboardist, Troye Kinnett, cast an eerie shine on this lost classic from the above mentioned album. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the rest of this stellar band, Mike Wanchic (guitar), Andy York (guitar), Dane Clark (drums), and John Gunnell (bass). A side note, Mike Wanchic has been with Mellencamp for 45 years!

There is a certain refined edge on his classics, “Paper in Fire” and “Crumblin Down”, maybe more suited to the 67-year old Mellencamp. The back half of his show is nothing but a good dose of all things Mellencamp! The opening notes of “Authority Song” had young and old dancing, from the balcony to the floor. The addition of “Land of a 1,000 Dances” in the middle, gave this old classic new life.

Mellencamp’s band members seem to know their place during every song, moving like they're in a well-directed play, or quite possibly borrowing from the soul of music’s yesteryear. A story of yesteryear closes out the night. The story is of his guitar player Mike, landing in jail in St. Louis on the charge of lewd vagrancy. Mellencamp was unfamiliar with the term. He finds out that lewd vagrancy resembles his upbringing in Seymour, IN. He reminds us that to talk about old times you have to be old. With this queue, Mellencamp launches into his last one of the evening, “Cherry Bomb”, a song about old times.

So there you have it, no encore, he told us that would be his last song of the evening. Further confirming he is a man that does it his way and I can’t fault him for that! Thanks to John Mellencamp for stopping in St. Louis and thank you to our most gracious hosts at the Stifel Theater.

Photos of the show are below:

Contributed by Duane Clawson
John Mellencamp @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO John Mellencamp @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on March 19, 2019 Rating: 5
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