John Mellencamp: Plain Spoken Live from The Chicago Theatre ★★★★

John Mellencamp has always been unfairly referred to as the poor man's Springsteen, much to this listener's annoyance. For someone who likes both, Mellencamp is the guy who epitomizes the term Heartland Rock, and it was back in 1982 that I first discovered a singer/songwriter who captured that Americana sound so authentically. American Fool was a great album, played it to death, and Uh-Huh, Scarecrow and especially Lonesome Jubilee all had tracks on them that have stood the test of time. Tastes however change over time and I lost track of where Mellencamp went to in the nineties and beyond, but I've always had fond memories of the Indiana born rocker and remember an old VHS tape I had of his eighties heyday that had cheesy videos of all his classics. Good times, but when you line up those hits on a Best Of CD you realise just how many great tunes he gave us.
This strange mix that plays like a dvd commentary track over concert footage is actually a fascinating concept. Mellencamp recounts tales from his career in voice-over mode as he and his band belt out tunes from his entire career. Insights into signing his first record contract, his relationship with his father, and his honesty about his drinking and drug taking in his early years all wash over us as we get treated to Pink Houses, Paper In Fire, Authority Song, and many more. He sounded great, the band too looked well tuned in providing solid support to a guy who wore his heart on his sleeve and still entertained forty + years after he first broke through. Netflix has provided the odd decent doc/concert/ film and this one is just that little bit different.

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