April 23, 1997 at Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont, IL
John Mellencamp is heartland rock 'n' roll. That was the verdict reached this week at the end of his five-night sold-out engagement at Rosemont Theatre.
The 4,400-seat venue offered fans one of the most intimate settings they've had the opportunity to see the former "Cougar" since long before he abandoned that stage name.
Following the album circus art theme, the stage was decked out as a big top, with manic crowd pleasers Moe Z MD (keyboards) and Pat Peterson (backing vocals, percussion) on heightened stages to the right and left of Mellencamp's centerstage. Calliope music set the mood before and after the show, (which ended with Mellencamp's roadies joining him onstage while decked out clown facepaint).
The Why Store opened the show with a '70s rock flavor, and vocals crossing somewhere between Hootie and Crash Test Dummies. Amanda Marshall followed proving that her Sheryl Crow-sounding hit "Birmingham" is her best effort; after a half hour of lackluster blues rock pap the audience was straining for the real rock 'n' roll show of the night. And he delivered.
Rather than concentrate on the material from his latest disc, Mr. Happy Go Lucky, Mellencamp's set ran like a greatest hits album, with the opening "Small Town," running into the rock rave of "Love and Happiness" and on into "Rain on the Scarecrow," "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A," "Lonely Ol' Night," "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), "a rap-colored revamp of "Jack and Diane" and an offhanded run-through of "Hurts So Good," (which Mellencamp let his guitarists have a crack at singing, before palming the mic himself.) Missing from the band were longtime Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff (who played on the new album) and violinist Lisa Germano (who didn't), but their replacements — including Chicago violinist Miriam Sturm — ably filled the gap.
The show wound to a close with "The Authority Song," "Little Pink Houses" (done as a feisty duet with opening act Amanda Marshall) and "Check It Out." It all clocked in at around an hour and a half, but Mellencamp spared little time for banter or encore breaks. The band played a fast, hard set that demonstrated Mellencamp's sure hand with straight rock hooks and lyrics. His catalogue is inarguably solid, from "Hurts So Good" straight through to the latest, "Just Another Day."
While it won't be the cozy confines of Rosemont Theatre, Mellencamp will bring his musical circus back to the Chicago area for a show under The World Theatre's Big Top on June 26. Don't miss this top-form tour.
The Jason Bonham Band
In The Name of My Father - The ZepSet
What better cover band for Led Zeppelin could you find than one employing one of the elder Zepp's sons? The Jason Bonham Band (which boasts an almost entirely new cast since the band was known simply as Bonham) has just released a set of Led Zeppelin covers recorded "Live From Electric Ladyland." The 10 live tracks include loyal covers of "In The Evening," "Ramble On," "The Song Remains The Same," "Communication Breakdown" and "Whole Lotta Love." All the artist royalties from the album are being donated to charities, including Jason's dad's memorial, the John Bonham Memorial Motorcycle Camp
From The Beginning
In many ways, a Best of Greg Lake is a Best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer box set, with some extra solo material. Much of Lake's career has been spent with ELP, and this set reflects that, opening with two of his early songs with King Crimson, and then concentrating on a wealth of ELP material, from "Lucky Man" and "Still...You Turn Me On," to "Karn Evil 9" and Emerson, Lake and Powell's "Touch and Go." There are over a dozen solo Lake songs included from his couple solo albums and live tours and his collaboration with Crimson's Pete Sinfield on "Still." An interesting local connection: the liner notes which chronicle Lake's career through it all were written by longtime Illinois Entertainer magazine writer Bruce Pilato.