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Review: John Mellencamp triumphs at iHeartRadio Theater in New York (Includes first-hand account)

Mellencamp was promoting his 23rd studio album, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, which was released today via Republic Records. The intimate show, was hosted by Jim Kerr of Q104.3’s Jim Kerr Rock & Roll Morning Show, which featured an exclusive Q&A session with the veteran rock star, as well as a live set by Mellencamp and his talented band.

“Well, good evening. We are live coast to coast,” Kerr said, in his opening remarks, as he went on to introduce Mellencamp. He opened his set with “Lawless Times,” where orange lights dimmed from the iHeartRadio stage. It was followed by “Minutes to Memories,” where he showcases his rich, raspy vocals. He had the audience clapping along with him on the upbeat “Check It Out,” which went on to receive an enormous response.
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Kerr noted that Mellencamp’s new album features his original paintings in the front and back of the CD, so fans are able to get “Great music and great paintings for one low price,” which is quite the bargain. The highlight song of the night was his solo rendition of “Jack & Diane,” where he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. He even incorporated it as a crowd sing-along, where the iHeartRadio fans served as his background vocalists. He shared that he wrote the song back in 1980, when he was just a kid, and he is pleased that “Jack & Diane” has stood the test of time.

He debuted his new song “What Kind of Man Am I,” which featured banjo and a neat, orchestral arrangement to it. Miriam Sturm was glorious on violin.

Mellencamp noted that he wrote “Easy Targets” as the lyrics came to him during a painting session, and he was glad that he wrote down the lyrics (since it resulted in a song on his new album). It was a haunting, and violin-driven performance that resonated with the fans.

He invited his cousin, Bobby Clark, on stage with him to sing his new single “Grandview,” which they co-wrote together, which was an added treat. On the album, the song is featured as a duet with country songstress Martina McBride.

While Mellencamp told Jim Kerr that it takes 100 songs to get 10 good ones, he underscored the importance of “never throwing anything away, ever,” especially when it comes to songwriting, since it takes a great deal of time. He closed his nine-song set by taking his fans on a trip down memory lane with such classics as the upbeat “Authority Song,” where people were singing and dancing along, as well as “Pink Houses,” where everybody was reciting the lyrics verbatim, as fuchsia lights shined from the iHeartRadio stage.

The Verdict

Overall, John Mellencamp was able to deliver at his iHeartRadio show in New York City, which was in support of his new album, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies. Jim Kerr did a wonderful job hosting, and the audience was aware of the fact that they were in the presence of a living rock legend. His show garnered five out of five stars.

Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 15,000 original articles over the past 15 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a five-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past two years, he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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