Sunday, 3 July 2011

John Mellencamp, Live at Hammersmith, London: It can get...No Better Than This

Recklessly, I missed John Mellencamp's last live gig in London. So, nineteen years later, I wisely reckoned I should get down to Hammersmith last night (Saturday, 2 July). Mellencamp, one of heartland America's most highly regarded singer-songwriters - and an Obama family favourite - doesn't often do London.
   On stage, Mellencamp's gravel diamond voice delivers lyrics that sketch a life thorned with incident, pain and humour. The troubadour's live music paints his words into colourful portraits and landscapes - dark and deathly, bright and lively. 
   Mellencamp's band plays with an oiled precision from rousing start to raucous end. They keep their balance on high power songs and when frequently slowing speed. Each change of pace and passion is propelled by a plaintive banjo, swirling accordion, chugging double bass and a flirtatious violin.
   Often the band exits. Mellencamp goes solo, nose-to-nose with a packed Apollo audience. Spotlight on, acoustic guitar chiming, Mellencamp powerfully relates more colourful tales. Save Some Time To Dream comes over as an especially poignant and memorable Mellencamp soliloquy.
   Mellencamp, now 59, squares up to his own mortality on If I Die Sudden. Few, if any, slack intervals of water have characterised his 35 years as a songsmith. His sweeping tide of songs still flows strongly.
   Melancholy and Mellencamp quickly part company when his band reassembles alongside. Helped by a lucky, plucked fan, Mellencamp and company play out with a joyously powerful and playful R.O.C.K in the USA, sending us Hammersmith hordes off to Walk Tall into the London night, humming and singing all the way home.
   As a Londoner, I don't often like admitting to envying Glaswegians - but if Hammersmith is anything to go by, Mellencamp will inspire and illuminate Glasgow tonight.

John Mellencamp played the Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday, 2 July, 2011.
For more info on the No Better Than This tour, visit John Mellencamp.

Photo: Copyright Paul Coleman. No re-use without expressed permission.

Paul Coleman, London, July 2011


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post and just about a perfect review. No he didn't do what people wanted, isn't this part of the reason we like him? I went to Manchester the night before and was thrilled that the "London" audience, sometimes not noted for its warmth I was told outside, stood and enjoyed the show. There can be no greater respect for a performer and I was proud to be there and thrilled to stand the whole concert on the front row. Yes 19 years is an absurd amount of time between (paying fans) gigs (he's been twice and done press only shows in '96 and 2008)but looking back, it was worth the wait. See you all in the USA next time he tours there.
(16 concert veteran Mellencamp fan from Sheffield)