Saturday, June 27, 2009

John Mellecamp - June 16, 1999

During the summer of 1999, I attended a lot of concerts. I don’t believe that there’s been a summer where I’ve attended more. I was in my mid-twenties, had a lot of disposable income (and credit) and concerts were one of my favorite events. One of the shows I saw that summer was John Mellencamp at the PNC Bank Arts Center, in Holmdel, New Jersey.

This would be the first and only time I would see Mellencamp in concert and I’ll be honest; I don’t recall much about this performance. I know that it wasn’t that long (he played for 90 minutes), I know that he played a few hits that I really wanted to hear (Pink Houses, Jack and Diane) and I know that it was his first return to Holmdel since he had a heart attack on stage.

We sat in section 403, which was the newly added, uncovered seats section. They were just installed earlier that year. Prior to those seats being there, the lawn was bigger, but the Arts Center realized they would get more revenue from adding seats there.

I paid $32.50 per ticket (plus fees). It was around this time that I started to really notice ticket prices creeping up and up. In two years time, the normal ticket price would be almost double what I paid for this show.

Son Volt opened the show and while I’m a huge fan of theirs now, the night of the concert I was only a casual fan. I owned a copy of Trace and that was all I knew about Son Volt. I remember wanting to hear Drown and not much caring about the other stuff they were playing. I did get to hear Drown and they did do an amazing performance of it.

With a buzz in the air and the roar of the crowd, Mellencamp took the stage. Again, I don’t recall every nuance as I do for most concerts, therefore it’s hard for me to remember exactly what took place or how I felt seeing John take the stage. There are some things I do easily recall. John wasn’t very energetic on stage (understandable for a guy who had a heart attack the last time he was at that venue). His song selection was nothing but the big hits, no deep cuts included. He performed for 90 minutes and called it a night.

I grew a deeper appreciation for Rain on the Scarecrow that night, as I listened to the lyrics he sang and the message behind the music. I was touched as John cried out about family farms being foreclosed on because the banks didn’t care about the bad year the farmer took, or the great credit they had before this troubled time hit. It definitely made me stop and think and appreciate the American farmer, all they do, and all they put up with.

While the performance itself was well done and enjoyable, especially the sing-along for Jack and Diane and Pink Houses, it was a disappointment that he would play such a short set. I was used to seeing bands and performers that went on forever and this was one of those rare concerts that was too short and somewhat disappointing.

Mellencamp has a catalog of great rock and roll hits and he played most of them that late spring night. However, his decision to perform for a minimal amount of time left me with a bad feeling and I determined that I probably would never see him live again.

I appreciate Mellencamp as a musical artist, enjoy his records, and own quite a bit of his stuff, but after that night, my feelings for him as a live performer were a lot less. Ever since then, I’ve paid a lot less attention to Mellencamp and I’ve actually become more of a Son Volt fan. While I will always like his music, especially the album Scarecrow, I don’t know that I will ever see Mellencamp in concert again.

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