Music » Critics' Picks

John Mellencamp with the Wallflowers

Monday, Aug. 20; Riverport Amphitheatre


He may not be quite as much in the public's eye as he once was, but that doesn't mean John Mellencamp is forgotten. You can still hear "Pink Houses," "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.," "Jack and Diane," "Ain't Even Done with the Night," "Crumblin' Down," "Check It Out" or any of the 21 hit singles he's released over the years on most rock radio stations -- all these songs remain in rotation.Though he's one of the most dependable pop artists of the last two decades, Mellencamp doesn't sit still stylistically -- he's gone through sub-Springsteen epic narratives, Stonesish rock & roll, folksy alt-country and even dabs of contemporary R&B and dance music. But no matter what genre he's drawing from, Mellencamp stays true to a couple of basic musical tenets that never get old. First and foremost, Mellencamp has faith in human nature. He believes that there are stories in everyday experiences, that there is value in examining the lives of normal people and their struggle to make it through the day. Sometimes he writes about his own life, but only those aspects of it that have nothing to do with the glamorous world of pop-music stardom. Clearly Mellencamp believes in the hip-hop dictum of "keeping it real." At the same time, he always delivers his music with the same kind of emotional honesty that's been carried down through the ages by such artists as Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen. His live shows are among the best in pop music.

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