Recap: John Mellencamp at Comerica Theater in Phoenix

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I can’t quite figure out why it took me this long to see John Mellencamp live for the first time. Like so many other Americans around my age (that’s 45 in a few days), I came to know John Cougar (at the time) from the earliest days of MTV. I vividly recall a road trip to my old hometown in Minnesota over the holidays of 1982, and seeing the “Jack & Diane” video on constant rotation at my friend’s house, along with the other very limited number of music videos at the time. I fell in love with the song, and came to realize over the next few years – as John released hit after hit: “Pink Houses”, “Small Town”, “Crumbling’ Down”, “Authority Song” – that John’s music would remain with me for life.

So for some reason, it took me 33 years (!) from the time I knew I loved his music to buy a ticket and go see him in concert. It was worth the wait.

With his sharply dressed, crack band in tow, John sauntered on stage last night at Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix and launched right into two blues-based numbers from his latest album, Plain Spoken: “Lawless Times” and “Troubled Man”. It was really something to see, with John and the band all dressed in black suits and a black dress for his long time violinist – and the floor lights lighting each of them individually… when John would finish the verse and chorus, he’d take a few steps back while at the same time the rest of the band would take a few steps forward to the front of the stage. It was simple but powerful choreography that shifted the focus to the players – a really cool idea that elicited fist pumps and goosebumps.

But naturally, the crowd really came alive during John’s classic songs from the 80’s: “Minutes to Memories”, “Small Town”, “Check It Out”, “Rain On The Scarecrow”, and of course his biggest hit, “Jack & Diane”, which John performed solo on stage with his acoustic guitar. It was a playful, fun singalong version, with John teasing the crowd for skipping the “Suckin’ on a chili dog” second verse and going right to the chorus. It was one of those intimate moments between performer and  audience that you rarely experience – a shared experience with an old tune so tied into everyone’s younger years; most everyone in the crowd thinking back to what they were doing 33 years ago as the song spent 4 straight weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts.

After a nice couple of songs from John’s play, The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (which opening act Carlene Carter came out to sing), and a short violin/ accordion interlude of John’s tunes, the energy level went through the roof with old favorites ‘Rain on the Scarecrow”, “Paper In Fire”, and especially the final four tunes of the evening: “”Crumbling’ Down”, “Authority Song”, “Pink Houses” and “Cherry Bomb.”

We weren’t ready for it end, and my buddy and I were somewhat shocked when John walked offstage after “Cherry Bomb” and the house lights immediately came on. The crowd was so amped up and ready for more, and let’s face it, how many headlining rock legend shows have you seen without an encore? It was an abrupt ending and somewhat of a buzz kill, as everyone wanted, needed, and expected more.  That’s my one “huh?” critique of an otherwise excellent evening.

When all was said and done, John Mellencamp delivered the goods. His voice still in fine form, with all those same moves you’ve seen in videos and performances over the years. It was a treat, and a major music bucket list item checked off my list.

Set List
July 29th, 2015
Comerica Theater, Phoenix, AZ

Lawless Times
Troubled Man
Minutes to Memories
Small Town
Stones In My Passway
Human Wheels
The Isolation of Mister
Check it Out
Longest Days
Jack & Diane (acoustic, solo)
The Full Catastrophe
Away From This World (Carlene Carter on vocals)
Tear This Cabin Down (CC and JM on vocals)
~ Accordion / Violin Interlude ~
Rain on the Scarecrow
Paper in Fire
If I Die Sudden
Crumblin’ Down
Authority Song
Pink Houses
Cherry Bomb

Recap: Cameo at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix

Everyone’s allowed a pure and simple nostalgia trip from time to time, right? For me tonight, it was the funk/soul/R&B of Cameo that brought me back to simpler days. Crazy to think that the last time I saw Cameo in concert, Ronald Reagan was president and I was a junior in high school.

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After discovering Prince in ’84, I threw myself into all the funky sounds I could get my hands on. Cameo was a huge part of that mid-80’s funk explosion in my life. Sitting in my room, cranking up the volume on “Flirt”, “I Just Want To Be”, “Candy”… and taping all the videos on BET’s Video Soul and New York Hot Tracks – “Attack Me With Your Love”, Single Life”, and of course “Word Up.”

So when I saw that Cameo was stopping through Phoenix in this year 2013, I jumped all over it.

The wife and I headed down to the Celebrity Theater, an old school theater-in-the-round room in Phoenix (Bruce Springsteen played there in 1974). It was around 9:30 when the house lights went down and out walked the familiar faces of Tomi Jenkins, Charlie Singleton (covered in a space-age silver Mardi-Gras mask), and of course the one and only Larry Blackmon.

Larry’s put on a few pounds, shall we say, and can’t jump around with his bandmates like he used to, but the big ol’ red codpiece was still on display, and he was still busting out his signature moves… The rest of the band were fit as could be. They looked great. They busted out all the familiar moves, shaking it to “Candy”, “Single Life”, “Attack Me With Your Love”… slowing it down for “Why Have I Lost You” and “Sparkle”… and laying down the old school funk with “Flirt” and “Keep It Hot.”

The crowd participation during “Candy” was a crowd favorite – with the ladies and the fellas trading off the line “It’s like Candy” one after another. Overall, the crowd was full of energy, and showed some serious love to the veterans of Cameo, now in their 34th year as a band.

It wasn’t a long show – only 12 songs with no encore, lasting about 70-75 minutes. But we didn’t mind. Sure, we all wanted more, but we were happy just to forget about the day to day for part of a Friday night; to listen to the sounds that bring back those good memories, and be just fine with letting the nostalgia wash over for a little while. Music, sweet music…

~~~ Set List ~~~ 

Cameo
January 18, 2013
Celebrity Theater
Phoenix, AZ

She’s Strange
Single Life
Attack Me With Your Love
I’ve Got Your Image
Why Have I Lost You
Hangin Downtown
Sparkle
Candy
I Just Want To Be
Keep It Hot
Flirt
Word Up

Here’s a little bit of “Flirt” from the show…

The Friday Five: February 3, 2012

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Like a Virgin” by Madonna (from Celebration, 2009)

Goddamn it, Madge. I want to run that Seth Myers skit where he rattles off a rapid-fire salvo of insults followed by the quizzical “really?” So, tell me, Madonna: why do you find it necessary to include your name in your lyrics, is it because you are worried someone might mistake it for an Avril Lavigne or Gwen Stefani tune? Oh, and M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj? Really? REALLY?

“Picture in an Exhibition” by Death Cab for Cutie (from Something About Airplanes, 1998)

Is anyone else looking forward to the next Death Cab for Cutie record?

“Deep” by Pearl Jam (from Vault #1: 1992-01-17: Moore Theater, Seattle, WA, USA, 2011)

This is an amazing show. Well worth seeking out.

“1901 (Alan Wilkis remix)” by Phoenix (from 1901, 2009)

It’s been awhile since we’ve visited with Alan Wilkis! If you haven’t been keeping up, he is in the midst of a new project called PRINTS, where he shares his funk with the likes of Bay-area rapper, Lyrics Born. Hit the link and dig in!

“A Letter to Elise” by The Cure (from Wish, 1992)

“And every time I try / to pick it up like falling sand / as fast as I pick it up / it runs away through my clutching hands” No one, but no one, does resigned desperation like Robert Smith. i can’t quite say why, but I’ve always held this song as the example of why I love The Cure as much as I do. Along with the equally forlorn “Pictures of You,” it ranks among my favorite songs, period.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Ick’s Radio Daze: Country Time – 102.5 KNIX

Welcome to week two of Ick’s Radio Daze. This week, I tackle Country radio. Not the Hank / Willie / Waylon / George / Johnny classic sort of country. We’re talking New Country – the unpleasant kind. Come on along as I spend an hour with a radio powerhouse here in Phoenix: KNIX…

Station: 102.5 KNIX
Format: Country
Type: Terrestrial (Phoenix)
Slogan: “Everything Country”
Date / Time: Jan. 11th, 2010 / 9:15-10:15pm MST
Commercials: 7 mins (nice!)
Streaming Online? Yes
Hot Chick on Home Page of Web Site? Does Taylor Swift count? Then yes. Two photos.
DJ: Unknown – honestly, the young guy talking between songs did not mention his name even once. And the web site doesn’t mention it.
Favorite Song: Lady Antebellum – “American Honey” [YouTube]
Least Favorite Song: Jack Ingram – “Wherever You Are” [YouTube]

Song List:
Easton Corbin – “A Little More Than Country Than That”
Randy Houser – “Boots On”
Toby Keith – “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song)
Miranda Lambert – “White Liar”
Eric Church – “Hell On The Heart”
Keith Urban – “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”
Jason Michael Carroll – “Hurry Home”
Brad Paisley – “I Wish You’d Stay”
Luke Bryan – “Rain Is A Good Thing”
Billy Currington – “People Are Crazy”
Carrie Underwood – “Temporary Home”
Jack Ingram – “Wherever You Are”
Dierks Bentley – “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes”
Mark Willis – “19 Somethin'”
Lady Antebellum – “American Honey”

Comments: I don’t listen to country radio. I did for a brief period in the early 90’s, when I lived in Colorado Springs. But “new” country, manufactured country, Nashville Country, whatever you want to call the calculated everyman stuff they churn out these days… just haven’t been a fan. But after a couple glasses of wine, I’m feeling open minded and receptive to whatever ol’ KNIX wants to throw my way tonight.

I’m a few songs in, and I’ve already heard a couple of “everyman” / good ol’ boy cliches. Figure I’ll grab a few zingers for you…

— “my cousin saw you on the street with a red head named Bernice”
— “well she’s heaven on the eyes but boy she’s hell on the heart”
— “i left a map on your front seat just in case you lose your way / But don’t worry, once you reach Sallasaw, it’s all interstate”
— “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky” [my favorite]
– “start warshin’ all our worries down the drain”

Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” wins for downer of the hour. Orphans, dyin’ grampaws.. shit Carrie, ease up a little!

Surprise of the hour: Lady Antebellum. I had heard the name, but assumed she was some Gaga wannabe. Turns out Lady Antebellum is a country singer. And I’m pretty sure she doesn’t favor dressing like an evil beekeeper.

Unrestrained pop culture references of the hour: “19 Somethin'” by Mark Willis. This song contains shout outs to the Rubik’s Cube, Pac Man, Elvis, parachute pants, MTV, Stretch Armstrong, Daisy Duke, and Farrah Fawcett. Phee-yew. Seriously, check this out…

Honestly, it wasn’t so unpleasant. The subject matter is just so damn entertaining for the most part. The format definitely has a good chunk of America by the balls (and ladyparts). Speaking of ladies, the songs favored the fellas in this hour. Only 3 of the 15 songs were women: Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Lady Antebellum. The rest of the hour belonged to the good ol’ boys. Giddy up, and I’ll see you next week.

Phoenix vs. Alan Wilkis

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Friend of Ickmusic Alan Wilkis shot this remix over to me earlier this week and I simply cannot stop listening to it. With Phoenix coming off their stellar SNL performance (seriously, who did they pay to get the sound right because this season has been the worst for musical acts on SNL) this is ready-made to get you moving. I’ll even go as far as to say that I like the original, but I love this remix. Check it out for yourself…

Phoenix – “1901 (Alan Wilkis remix)

Alan also let it slip that he’s working on an EP to be released in late May. You can be sure that we’ll have all the details when the record drops.

Buy Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: Amazon | iTunes

Phoenix Links: Official Site | on Last.fm | on MySpace

Alan Wilkis Links:  on Last.fm | on MySpace