John Mellencamp kicked off the final leg of his “No Better Than This” international tour with a show at Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre on June 14.
Mellencamp didn’t disappoint the packed house of mostly baby boomers, who gave the audience what they were looking for, with a high energy performance of a number of his most recognizable tunes.
Opening with a gravel voiced version of Authority Song, Mellencamp had the audience on their feet immediately. He played a handful of more recent tunes, including the immensely relatable No One Cares About Me, a rousing, folksy lament about a middle aged man whose relationships have gone awry.
Mellencamp then opted for a solo series, stepping into the spotlight for an acoustic version of Jack and Diane, adding some spartan touches of fiddle and accordian accompaniment to other songs in the accoustic set.
“We’ve come millions of miles to see you,” he told the audience at one point, a reference, perhaps, to a career that has involved 40 wearying years of touring.
With Mellencamp in Penticton was Michael Wanchic (guitar), Andy York (guitar), Miriam Sturm (violin), John Gunnell (electric and upright bass), Dane Clark (drums and percussion) and Troye Kinnett (accordion/keyboards).
Mellencamp managed to squeeze many, if not all of his most recognizable tunes into the approximately hour and a half show, without compromising the quality of the performance.
Following the solo set, Mellencamp and his band finished the evening with an energetic delivery of Mellencamp’s hits from the 80s, bringing the audience to its feet to sing along to such tunes as R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A., Rain On The Scarecrow, Paper In Fire, and Pink Houses, ending the evening with the the Mellencamp classic, Cherry Bomb.
Receiving a standing ovation, Mellencamp bowed politely before exiting the stage. The enthusiastic crowd didn’t want the evening to end, maintaining an ovation for several minutes. With the Canadian tour taking in 19 performances in just under a month, however, Mellencamp understandably resisted the call for an encore.
Special guests – and opening act, The Cowboy Junkies primed the audience with a short set that included some recent work by the Toronto based band, who recently released four titles over an 18-month stretch, including The Wilderness, volume four of The Nomad series.
For those in the audience not thoroughly familiar with the group, an opportunity to make the connection was missed when the group failed to play their most recognizable tunes – Anniversary Song and Angel Mine.