October 25, 2011
John Mellencamp’s No Better Than This Tour is just back from a run of dates in Europe. The 17-date tour kick off right here in Boston on October 25 at the Wang Theatre.
Mellencamp’s critically acclaimed No Better Than This album recording session began at Savannah’s First African Baptist Church. Mellencamp and producer T Bone Burnett would go on to record the rest of the album at Sun Studio in Memphis and in Room 414 of San Antonio's Gunter Hotel where Robert Johnson recorded in 1936. The sessions were documented on a 55-year-old mono tape recorder using just one vintage microphone at each location.
As a reflection of the diversity of styles and material that have been a hallmark of Mellencamp's eclectic career, the No Better Than This concerts are formatted into three segments. These showcase John Mellencamp in an acoustic context, fronting a small combo recalling blues/country and rockabilly roots and with his full rock band. Musicians backing Mellencamp include 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).
Each of the No Better Than This tour dates will be preceded by a screening of It’s About You, the documentary by filmmakers Kurt and Ian Markus, shot on Super 8, over the course of 2009’s Bob Dylan-John Mellencamp-Willie Nelson tour of minor league baseball stadiums. The hour-long film, both a SXSW Film Festival and Nashville Film Festival selection, chronicles the creation of the No Better Than This album that was recorded on that tour’s off days. The film will be shown at 7 PM at each of the No Better Than This Tour venues so ticket holders are advised to arrive in time to see it.
As was the case with its album namesake, No Better Than This concerts have been the subject of an impressive number of laudatory reviews. A selection of excerpts from those follows.
"Mellencamp's goal in reconfiguring these songs was clear: to establish that underneath the pop-radio polish lurked deep truths about American life. ..he went about his business without abandoning his natural animal magnetism, Mellencamp succeeded." - Los Angeles Times
"Mellencamp gloriously proved that not only is he one of America’s treasures, an incredible singer-songwriter and guitarist, he’s also a master at putting together a set." - Dallas Morning News
"..a concert that seesawed between facing mortality — full of songs about death — and a stubborn determination to live fully." - New York Times "..he maintains remarkable vocal strength. It's an instrument that's perfectly suited to a catalogue of songs that aim to provide a voice to a cast of uncelebrated working-class figures." - Richmond Times-Dispatch
"His voice, grainy and loaded with gravitas, remains as compelling and as affective as it was the day he recorded ‘Pink Houses’ in 1983. It’s a voice that’s as distinctive as any of his arguably more famous peers, from Dylan to Springsteen to Petty, and like those artists, it’s attached to a man who has kept integrity high on his priority list. Johnny Cash once referred to him as one of the ten best songwriters, and Mellencamp’s newer material didn’t disappoint in a live setting." - American Songwriter
"..it was a generous show, giving the fans what they wanted, but also allowing the leader to indulge in a more old-school style." - St Paul Pioneer Press
"This concert was superb from beginning to end, with Mellencamp and his crack band taking a stripped down, neo-folk approach until the last quarter, when he unleashed his rock 'n' roll persona. I'm loath to call anything the best, but if I have to choose, this was the concert of the year in Pittsburgh." - Pittsburgh Tribune