Indiana native John Mellencamp kicked off his “Live and In-Person Tour” with two back-to-back performances Feb. 5 and 6. at IU Auditorium. Mellencamp played a blend of classic his hits like “Small Town” and “Jack & Diane.” He also performed new songs from his 2022 album like “Strictly a One-Eyed Jack,” “I Always Lie to Strangers” and “Chasing Rainbows.”
Mellencamp opened the show with a variety of classic movie clips from Hollywood’s Golden Age, including “Hud” starring Paul Newman, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “On the Waterfront,” “The Misfits” and the James Dean classic, “Giant.”
Mellencamp jumped in with a solid opener, consisting of several pieces from his new album. In between pieces, Mellencamp spoke to the crowd. Mellencamp was blunt in his urging that people do not stress the little things in life.
“If you’re getting pissed off that the guy in front of you isn’t going the second the light turns green, you’re wasting a fuck there,” Mellencamp said.
Many fans enjoyed his authentic mixture of nostalgia inducing hits and freshly minted songs.
“I hoped to hear some of his vintage music that we love, and I’m thrilled that we heard it,” longtime Mellencamp fan and audience member Lisa Grissom said. “I surprisingly liked some of his new stuff. I hadn’t heard it. I liked it. His words speak to us, no matter what age you are.”
Grissom and her Harley Davidson leather jacket-sporting husband Charlie are both longtime Mellencamp fans who came from southern Indiana. Lisa was born and raised in Seymour and continued residing in the region when Mellencamp emerged. Lisa said she loves Mellencamp's outspokenness.
“If you listen to some of his new stuff, he addresses a lot of political and social things,” Lisa said. “He’s always been kind of outspoken about political and social issues. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. He’s not afraid to say what he believes in.”
Kendall Santos, a student manager for IU Auditorium, said it was significant hosting such an icon like Mellencamp.
“With concerts, it's definitely a more relaxed and fun vibe,” Santos said. “Our job here is to make sure everyone has a good time and John Mellencamp is the right kind of person to have come here because everyone here loves him.”
Bruce and Rita Booker of Clyde drove from out of state to see the icon they came of age listening to. Bruce said he appreciates Mellencamp's raw authenticity most of all.
“We drove five and a half hours to come see him today,” Bruce said. “He’s made it big but he still connects to the small-town people, small town audience. He hasn’t sold himself out to the big market as much as a lot of guys do.”
Amidst the excitement and bursts of nostalgic energy in the gothic limestone grandeur of IU Auditorium, the crowd was electric. They were ready for a return to a simpler era, where the heartland brimmed with the radical leftist folklore movement. It was as if this era had returned, not only with the nostalgia of iconic classics, but Mellencamp’s ability to smoothly transition into songs.
The charming familiarity of the style of Mellencamp’s newer pieces, such as “I Always Lie to Strangers” and “Chasing Rainbows” are indistinguishable from “Small Town” and “Jack & Diane” in terms of which era they come from, as Mellencamp has maintained his style while always remaining original — a fine line not easily achieved by many artists.