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Rocking with Grandpa, John Mellencamp at the Beacon Theater

By Michael Castaneda

Published: March 6th, 2019

On February 25th, John Mellencamp, formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp, played the first of three nights at the Beacon Theater in the Upper West Side.

It was a Monday night and I was free. Since I had a free ticket to his concert, I decided to go see the show after I hit the gym.

The average age of people in line to go through metal detectors to get into the venue was about 50+ years old. There were two guys right behind me who sounded like Fox News viewers talking loudly about the Robert Kraft Massage parlor scandal; saying how police will probably start to enforce the laws concerning massage parlors, hence ruining it for everyone. Oy!

When I was finally ushered in, there was no opening band, instead, I had to watch a video of John Mellencamp’s life told in a way he wanted you to know it. It felt like I was back in high school when the school couldn’t get a substitute. The audience was restless.

Finally, Mellencamp and the band came out. I knew I would know some of his songs, but not most of them, since I am more of a hip hop fan who loves Drake and Kendrick. Therefore, l wasn’t sure how I would take it.

Mellencamp stomped his right foot like the Talking Horse to start the show. His first song was bluegrass. I liked it. Most of his music was like any solo performer. There was a solid backing band that played two levels lower than the singers soaring vocals. His voice was rough like a person who had been smoking their whole life and was on the edge of emphysema. Also, he moved really well for someone with arthritis. As his show went on, the audience was unkind to him by being obnoxious or leaving anytime he didn’t play one of his hit songs from the ’80s. But when he did, they’d go crazy like they grasped a dim image of their far far away youth.

Overall, I enjoyed all the songs. His music has similar themes to those today. There were songs about hook-up culture, being poor, being policed, being inebriated, etc. But there was also something timeless there. His songs didn’t seem overtly mainstream to today’s standards but at the same time, it could have been music from anywhere in the 60s through the 90s or even an indie band from today. There’s a mix of country, liberalism, and a distinctive voice that never wavered. He also took the time to speak about income inequality, gender inequality, and racism.

I’m happy that grandpa can still rock!

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