John Mellencamp makes it a big night in Boston

A review of John Mellencamp at the Bank of America Pavilion on July 14, 2008

, Managing Editor

John Mellencamp’s Monday night show at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston came on the eve of an important day for the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer as Tuesday was the release of his latest album, Life, Death, Love, and Freedom, and the announcement for Farm Aid 2008. The excitement was clearly in the air as Mellencamp seemed extra stimulated throughout the hour and a half set. The country great scattered several new songs into his mix of his American-flavored hits and political tunes.

Mellencamp jumped right into the patriotism with “Pink Houses” as motorcycles, cowboys, and other images of Americana flashed on the screen before heating up the already humid night as the band scorched though “Paper in Fire”, with their leader grooving to the thumping drum beat. “I’m Not Running Anymore” and “Check It Out” followed, keeping the crowd bustling as the singer emphatically pumped his first during the latter. His newest single, “My Sweet Love”, came in between and was performed with the lyrics appropriately flashing on the stage screen.

The first leg of the set breezed by. Subsequently, the band exited the stage leaving just John with his acoustic guitar. Mellencamp then made the performance more personal as he took time to address the audience, even stopping to talk during some songs. He started his solo section of the set out with “Minutes to Midnight” and followed it with “A Ride Back Home”, another new track. Starting to get chatty before the new song the aging singer talked about how Life, Death, Love, and Freedom will be his 23rd album, amazing to him seeing as a kid he just wanted to make a record. During the song Mellencamp stopped to ponder the prayers Jesus actually listens to, bringing up sports prayers, and receiving a loud ovation when he told a shouting fan in the front, “I’m not a Yankees fan so you can shut up!”.&

“Young Without Lovers”, also off the new album, followed, with Mellencamp introducing the new material by teaching the chorus to the crowd in order to produce a sing-along. Those who took a break during the new material were back on their feet for “Small Town” which wasn’t as good stripped down but was redeemed when John was finally joined by violin and accordion to close the song.&

With the whole band back and John now on electric guitar the set started rocking with “Rain on the Scarecrow” followed by a string of new tracks. “If I Die Sudden” was fantastic, with Mellencamp vigorously shouting and a guitar solo leading into a violin solo. Before finishing the set with crowd-pleasing hits, Mellencamp hit on a serious note, playing the new track “Jena” which was inspired by the racially insensitive Jena, Louisiana, of which he spoke beforehand.&

To cheer up the crowd the night finished in a stirring fashion with “Crumblin’ Down”, “R.O.C.K. in the USA”, and the lovers anthem, “Jack and Diane”. During the latter, before images of the American heartland, the singer told everyone to take their phones out and call a friend and say, “John Mellencamp has something to tell you”. The excitement was capped off with an encore of “Authority Song”, with a sweat-soaked Mellencamp jumping and kicking as the band pounded out the last notes of the night.

Lucinda Williams opened the show. She recently played a concert of her own at the Lowell Summer Music Series and opened for John Mellencamp both nights at the Pavilion this week.

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