I live-tweeted last night’s very fine John Mellencamp concert at DAR Constitution Hall, then tried in the cold light of day to organize my tweets into coherent, largely numbers-based recap of the show. Maybe better just to read the tweets, I dunno. But I know the gig was excellent; more generous and more somber than the 85-minute, hits-only set I somehow had it in my head that Mellencamp prefers. More than half the set was stuff released in the 21st century, and while I delighted to hear “Check It Out,” which I thought for the first time sounds like an old Staples Singers jam, and “Cherry Bomb” — all told, four songs from 1987’s The Lonesome Jubilee, wow; and “Jackie Brown,” too — I thought the newest stuff was the best. I’m always interested in how old-timers with deep and much-beloved back catalogs balance their desire to perform new material with their fans’ presumed expectation that they rock the hits.
Anyway, go read.
When Man of Few Words, Many Songs Tom Petty allowed himself a few words in praise of his since-forever band, The Heartbreakers, last night at — there’s just no way to get around saying this — Jiffy Lube Live, he introduced drummer Steve Ferrone as “the man who gets the job done.”
He could just as easily have been doing something he seems to detest: talking about himself.
Everyone knows you don’t go to Tom Petty for flash or invention. You to him for the thing he has, more than any other rocker of his generation, come to embody: excitement-free dependability. Since 1976, he’s rarely let more than a couple years go by without giving us another song or three that sounds just perfect on the radio of a car with the windows open. (It should’ve been Petty who eventually starting selling pickup trucks, not John Mellencamp, who despite sharing Petty’s greatest-hits approach to live performance, has at various points in his career appeared to suspect he was making art.) Petty has always made writing great — well, greatish — songs look easy. And last Christmas, an expansive box set compiling three decades of concert recordings made a strong case that TP and the HBs have earned a spot in the live rock band pantheon. Continue reading
A pair of winners get their report cards this week. Nice to hear Mellencamp getting his dignity back. As recently as, um, ten years ago, I could tell people I liked him without fear of embarrassment. He had a strong run of albums for a decade-and-a-half from 1983’s Uh-Huh up through his self-titled Columbia debut in ’98. The ones between The Lonesome Jubilee in ’87 and Human Wheels in ’93 were especially good.
As the Hold Steady’s Stay Positive seems to have arrived without the tidal wave of hype that accompanied the release of their very-good-but-not-life-changing (though it probably changed their lives) revelatory Boys and Girls in America in 2006, I feel freer to enjoy it. It just sounds great. It’s okay for records to just sound great sometimes, yeah?