Rod Stewart & John Mellencamp

From the sexy rocker to the smalltown farm boy. I saw two shows just weeks apart at the Save On Food Memorial Center in Victoria BC, they seemed like a good combo for a comparison and a blog.

First off was Rod Stewart’s October 30th show. Be prompt if you plan on seeing him, the show had a very early start at 7:30, no opening act, the lights went down and the “shower” type black and white curtain which went around the stage just dropped. From the way he walked onstage I didn’t notice that Rod was wearing a boot cast on his foot. He explained that he was playing footy or soccer with his sons and got a hairline “fucking” (his words) fracture, and hoped we didn’t mind if he had to sit now and again. While he sat a few times for the slower songs, he was still up roaming and rocking like nothing was wrong. Rod was surrounded by a fabulous 10 piece band 5 guys and 5 women. The guys were great but the women really outshined them, one lady played violin and a fabulous mandolin on Maggie May, another played violin and banjo, one played the harp. While Rod was changing outfits, the one lady from New York did the most outstanding tribute to Tina Turner singing “Nutbush City Limits”. His voice sounded great especially at 73, and the setlist was outstanding. Rod has so many hits and such a large repertoire that I didn’t notice till after the show that he didn’t sing a few huge ones like “Tonight I’m Yours”, “Young Turks” or “Baby Jane”, but he dug deep into his catalogue with a few oldies and one from his old group the Faces with great renditions of “You wear It Well”, Stay With Me”, and “Handbags and Gladrags”. While I don’t go to shows to just watch a screen I have to say that out of all the thousands of shows I’ve seen, Rod had the best screens ever, 3 large ones so clear it seemed like 3D or Imax.

He only did one song from his new album, his rendition of the Irish song “Grace”, it was the most poignant and beautiful moment of the evening, Rod sat with his band surrounding him while the big screen in the back told the sad story with pictures and lyrics. The song is about Joseph Plunkett an Irish nationalist, poet, journalist and revolutionary leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. Joseph was about to marry his love Grace when the protest to overthrow British rule in Ireland had commenced, in the end most were sentenced to death, Joseph was allowed to marry Grace before his execution. It’s so controversial, that the BBC has banned the song, not unlike “The Killing Of Georgie”, one of my favorite Rod Stewart songs which tells the tale of the life and tragic killing of a gay man in the 70’s. I was hoping “Georgie” would be part of the set list since he did it on tour in Hollywood recently, but it was not to be.

I never thought the highlight of the show would have been the 80’s kitschy disco classic “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”. It was a fabulous extended rocking dance version with an explosion of gigantic balloons floating across the venue. Just like the prompt start the encore was quick, the curtain rose up and down twice with hardly a chance to applaud, he did “Sailing” and “Sweet Little Rock & Roller” to close the show at exactly 2 hours in. I was happy that I finally got to see Rod the mod, and I can only imagine with a show this good what he must have been in his prime.

I believe there is an art to putting on a show, while some just sing their hearts out; it takes more than a band and a voice to keep the audience captive for an hour and a half to two hours. The John Mellencamp November 12th show did not start off great. We were told to promptly be seated at 8:00, but the show started with a 30 minute documentary on Mellencamp and the crowd got very restless and verbal about it. I could hear right behind me a guy screaming “I didn’t pay $100 to watch a fucking documentary” another lady chimed in with the same, the audience was booing throughout the documentary bellowing for John to get on stage, I could barely hear the last 5 minutes of the film. The film itself might have been a good watch on TV while lounging on the couch but it was quite boring with scenes of landscapes and cities with John’s voice overdubbed, it didn’t help that it seemed to be projected without a screen against the venue back wall which has some sort of graffiti,  it was hard to see, I almost fell asleep. Mellencamp really needed to come on with a huge rocking hit song, but instead he started off the show with 3 lesser known songs, while I love hearing the deeper cuts like Scarecrows’ track “Minute To Memories”, after that long documentary it just didn’t work. “Smalltown” finally got people up, but it was up and down for a while. He seemed to be phoning in the acoustic version of Jack & Diane where it was mostly the audience that sang. His blue-sy grass rendition of “Stones in My Passway” worked well with his voice which is a lot more grittier then it used to be, gone is a bit of his range. There seemed to be very little else in extras, no screen to see his face and the lighting was kept very dark almost demonic in some songs. Sometimes and audience can make a show and sometimes they can drag it down to a black hole. John sat down with his guitar to tell a story about his grandmother before breaking into the song “Longest Days” but his story was long, 3 and half minutes, I taped it, the crowd was getting restless, John had to tell some of them “If you are going to yell and shit go out in the hallway”. I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen this at a concert but then again I don’t usually go to such as redneck show.

Like Rod he had a poignant moment in the evening with “Easy Target” the anti-racism song off his new album, followed by the instrumental “Overture” from his album “Mr Happy Go Lucky” played solo by the superb violinist. This was a perfect example of where to do a deeper cut or slower song in the show, it worked quite well.

My favorite Mellencamp song “Rain On The Scarecrow” finally kicked the show into high gear with the last 7 tracks. “Crumblin’ Down and “Authority Song” got the whole house shaking. There didn’t seem to be an encore, he didn’t leave the stage, but perhaps he was annoyed with the audience or it was running late, he finished just after ten with “Cherry Bomb” and “Hurts So Good”. It’s a bit unfair to compare shows both Rod and John are unique artists and great in their own right but Rod is definitely the showman. I’m happy I finally got to see Mellencamp and hear the songs I grew up with but I hope for his next tour he rethinks his show, the flow of the songs, the interactions, the visuals, like making a movie it’s more than just a script, speaking of movies, keep the documentaries for the theaters or TV. One more thing, “R.O.C.K. in the USA” needs to be put back in the setlist, a real shame the song was missing.

Rod’s Setlist

  1. Soul Finger (The Bar‐Kays cover) (band only)
  2. Infatuation
  3. Love Train (The O’Jays cover)
  4. Some Guys Have All the Luck
  5. Rhythm of My Heart
  6. Can’t Stop Me Now
  7. You Wear It Well
  8. Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
  9. Forever Young
  10. Maggie May
  11. I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
  12. Downtown Train
  13. The First Cut Is the Deepest
  14. You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)
  15. Handbags and Gladrags
  16. Grace
  17. Nutbush City Limits (Ike & Tina Turner cover) (band only)
  18. Stay With Me (Faces song)
  19. Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?
    Encore
  20. Sailing
  21. Sweet Little Rock & Roller

John’s Setlist

  1. Lawless Times
  2. John Cockers
  3. Minutes to Memories
  4. Small Town
  5. Stones in My Passway (Robert Johnson cover)
  6. Lonely Ol’ Night
  7. Check It Out
  8. Longest Days
  9. Jack & Diane (acoustic performance)
  10. The Full Catastrophe
  11. Easy Target
  12. Overture
  13. Rain on the Scarecrow
  14. Paper in Fire
  15. Crumblin’ Down
  16. Authority Song / Land of 1000 Dances
  17. Pink Houses
  18. Cherry Bomb
  19. Hurts So Good

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