John Mellencamp triumphs in an incredible way in San Francisco

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

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

Still, Mellencamp protests too much, I think.

You don’t do a fire show like he did on Friday and you don’t give a (expletive). Indeed, his passion was burning red-hot throughout the show’s just over two hours as he carried his songbook as convincingly as at any point during a recording career stretching back to the 1976 debut of “Johnny Cougar,” “ Chestnut Street Incident.

He’s still advocating for social issues through music, both in his older numbers and the new ones he’s writing. His comments to the crowd on Friday – the first half of a two-night affair at the venue – made it clear how much the art of songwriting still matters to him. 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. This 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 – flashed on a large screen. at the center of the stage. That tie-in with tour sponsor Turner Classic Movies, however, worked only moderately well, as the noise from the crowd made it very difficult to hear dialogue.

Around 8:30pm, the screen lifted so the crowd could see Mellencamp and his superb six-piece band launch into the deep “John Cockers” from 2008’s “Life, Death, Love and Freedom”. stage by some creepy movie star mannequins, including one that was supposed to be Brando and another that might have been Paul Newman – although it honestly looked so much like Pee Wee Herman from my vantage point. .

From that soft-selling opening, Mellencamp quickly transitioned into a big three-song run through “Paper in Fire,” “Minutes to Memories,” and “Small Town,” the last of which really got the crowd into party mode. All of those numbers came from Mellencamp’s two ’80s albums – “Scarecrow” and “The Lonesome Jubilee” – which rank as the best releases from her entire back catalogue. In all, eight of the 21 songs performed were from these two albums.

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

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

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