(DTE Energy Theatre, MI - July 2nd, 2005)
Throughout his career, John Mellencamp has had to fight, whether it was for the right to record under his own name or for respect as an artist. Of course, he never made it easy on himself.
Tonight, however, it seems that life is just rollin' along very comfortably for the man born in Seymour, IN. A bare-of-color, non-complicated stage stands alone, quiet, awaiting the arrival of the Cougar and his band. 12 revolving lights that will later cast the colors needed hang low, and menacingly from the upper reaches, while still more stand scattered around the stage.
Come show time, and it's a young Marlon Brando movie clip that brings everyone's attention to the screens, allowing the house lights to dim, the band silently making their way onto the stage.
Dressed impressively in a dark two-piece suit, white shirt, clean black shoes, Mellencamp starts off the long set with 'Small Town' before heading straight into both 'Love & Happiness' and 'Minutes To Memories.'
As usual, this tour is a greatest hits tour and nothing from his latter day albums will (seemingly) ever make it out through his microphone! 'Lonely Ol' Night' is his first song where we relinquishes his guitar, unbuttons his shirt, and prepares to stay awhile.
Bringing back opener John Fogerty for a couple of forgettable front-stage duets, Mellencamp's quickly solo again and into the lesser-played 'Rain On The Scarecrow.' The new single for the Words & Music hits package, 'Walk Tall' is next, followed by an orange-drenched hue to the set closer 'Paper In Fire'.
During the quick set break, we get treated to a rather wonderful video flashback montage of all Mellencamp's past appearances, from 1980 to 2005 ... before he's back on stage, refreshed, and singing 'I Need A Lover.' Now dressed in a less formal black T, the once-Cougar musically power surges the crowd with a four-pack of Americana: 'Authority Song,' 'Jack & Diane,' 'Crumblin' Down' and 'R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.'
Bringing the show into the final bend, the accordion player sings the opening verse to 'Hurts So Good' before an extended version of 'Pink Houses' (and a band introduction) finally allow the stinging in people's hands to subside!
Paying mention to the fact that the next song was the first time since 1970 that he had played it in full - and that it was written around the time he thought he was going to be a soul singer like Mitch Ryder - Mellencamp's clap-along 'Check It Out' is brought to the fore. Closing with 'Cherry Bomb,' after some aggressive waves goodbye, the man leaves the stage, the arena music fills the air, and we have to trudge back to our cars along with the 22,000 other people ... as no encore means no get-out-ahead-of-time scenario, my friends!
Reviewed by Russell A. Trunk