By Felice Lineberry
John Mellencamp has quite a catalog of music in his more than 40-year career. Not knowing what to expect from an artist who dominated the airwaves quite some time ago, he is still going strong with his new album “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies.”
Carlene Carter opened the night with an acoustic set on June 8 in the Marymoor Park Concerts series kickoff event. Carter has music in her bloodlines being the daughter of June Carter Cash from her first marriage. This wouldn’t be the only time we would see her on stage that night. Next was 13-time Grammy winner Emmylou Harris. It’s not often that the opening acts are country music royalty.
As the sun began to set in the park, we got our headliner. The crowd was instantly on its feet. The entire band was dressed in black and white and opened with the bluesy “Lawless Times.” Next was the moodier tune, “What Kind of Man Am I,” from his new album. Many of the upcoming songs were duets where Carter got back on stage with Mellencamp. His raspy tone was wonderfully complimented by Carter’s melodic voice.
It wasn’t too long before we were treated to an acoustic version of “Jack and Diane”; while drawing great appreciation from the crowd, it was performed a little reluctantly by Mellencamp. This opened the door to some other memorable tunes such as “Cherry Bomb,” “Authority Song” and “Pink Houses.”
At the end of the show, Mellencamp addressed the crowd about the past. “So there really is no past,” he exclaimed after questioning why we always reminisce about days gone by. “You bring it along with you, it’s part of you. You know it’s just part of our lives.” It was an excellent segue into the final song, “Old Times,” and a reminder of how many of these songs he performed were part of our lives.
At night’s conclusion, you felt as though you were indulged to a show full of talent one would expect at a multi-headlining festival. Like other Heartland rockers such as Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty, Mellencamp gives us an idea of what it’s like to live in a blue-collar town in Indiana surrounded by farmland. And for one evening at Marymoor, we were all from small-town America.