Mellencamp plays to classic rock crowd

Tom Cochrane and Red Rider keep it simple for fans

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

John Mellencamp

If there was any question as to whether or not old boys can still rock hard, doubts were laid to rest by the end of an energetic performance by John Mellencamp on Tuesday night at the John Labatt Centre.

Starting the evening was Canada’s own Tom Cochrane and his band, Red Rider. While the set was short, Cochrane frequently addressed the audience and highlighted his personal connection to the city from the start.

“[London] was where I first auditioned for Red Rider,” he explained, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Cochrane also made a point of identifying with those who had paid up to $100 to be there.

“You know, this is our country,” playing on the title of the Mellencamp single. “And we are Canadian.”

Despite the energy onstage, the crowd was hesitant to join in. Cochrane finally managed to get them on their feet with his final track before the encore, one of his most recognizable songs, “Life Is a Highway.”

When the house lights went down for a second time, John Mellencamp " dressed in blue jeans and a shirt with rolled up sleeves " took the stage with his band to the overwhelming cheers of the audience, who seemed to suddenly remember it was a rock concert.

After playing four songs with the band, Mellencamp was left on stage alone to play a handful of acoustic tracks. The seasoned rocker, who previously hadn’t spoken between songs, began what would become something of a personal dialogue with the audience: he taught them the chorus to a new song and shared memories of previous visits to London.

Mellencamp made a genuine effort to get to know his audience.

“Who here is under the age of 30?” he asked, drawing only a few obnoxious whistles and cheers.

Once he was rejoined by his band, Mellencamp kept things simple and entertained everyone with some of his better-known hits, along with some newer songs.

“So we’ve talked about politics, about growing up, about racism,” he summarized near the end of his set, in a final effort to pump up the crowd. “But who is ready to dance?” Apparently Mellencamp himself: there was hardly a moment when the sweat-covered musician was not jumping around the stage like a more refined version of Mick Jagger.

In an attempt to make the concert a more personal experience, Mellencamp invited the crowd to call a loved one before going into the last chorus of his hit, “Jack and Diane.”

Expecting an encore afterwards, the audience was in for a surprise.

“So you know the thing where I go offstage, then you applaud for a while, then I come out and play some more? Let’s not do that,” Mellencamp announced. “Let’s be honest, you still want to hear more, and I still want to play more.”

With “Authority Song,” Mellencamp ended the night of pure and simple rock n’ roll, no doubt bringing a large number of audience members back to their younger days. For everyone else, it was a reminder that as long as real rockers are around, we will have real rock.

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