John Mellencamp triumphs in amazing fashion in San Francisco

John Mellencamp wanted to make one thing perfectly clear to the audience at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco:

“The older I get, the less I give a (expletive),” proclaimed Hoosier, 71. “I don’t give a (expletive)”

However, it seems to me that Mellencamp protests too much.

You don’t put on a fierce show like he did on Friday and you don’t give a (expletive). In fact, his passion burned red hot during the little-over two-hour concert, as he combed through his songbook as convincingly as he has at any time during a recording career dating back to the 1976 debut of “Johnny Cougar.” , “Chestnut Street Incident.

He still champions social issues through song, both in his previous issues and in the new ones he’s been writing. Her comments to the crowd on Friday, the first half of a two-night gathering at the venue, made it clear just how much she cares about the art of songwriting. And he works very hard to put on a show that matters to both the audience and the musicians on stage.

So yes, Mellencamp still cares. He cares a lot.

And he certainly cares about old movies. That was underscored during a 30-minute opening segment where clips from some of Mellencamp’s favorite classic films, 1954’s “On the Waterfront” and 1960’s “The Fugitive Kind,” both starring Marlon Brando, appeared on a big screen. in the center of the stage. . This tie-in with tour sponsor Turner Classic Movies, however, only worked moderately well, as crowd noise made dialogue very difficult to hear.

Around 8:30 p.m., the screen rolled up so the crowd could see Mellencamp and his superb six-piece band launching the deep cut “John Cockers” from 2008’s “Life, Death, Love and Freedom.” she was also accompanied onstage by some creepy-looking movie star mannequins, including one that was supposed to be Brando and another that might have been Paul Newman, although honestly he looked at least like Pee Wee Herman from my point of view. view. .

From that soft-sell start, Mellencamp quickly shifted into high gear for a big three-song run through “Paper in Fire,” “Minutes to Memories,” and “Small Town,” the last of which really got the crowd going. went into party mode. All of those numbers come from Mellencamp’s two ’80s albums, “Scarecrow” and “The Lonesome Jubilee,” which rank as the best outings in his entire catalogue. In total, eight of the 21 songs performed were from those two albums.

Mellencamp then gave fans time to catch their breath as he switched from longtime fan favorites to some lesser-known cuts, including “Dear God,” “Jackie Brown,” and “Don’t Need This Body.”

“Looking at the audience, I can tell some of you can relate to this,” Mellencamp said in the introduction to the old age ode “Don’t Need This Body”.

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