By Frank E. Lee

Many artists with extensive catalogs of songs have a love/hate relationship with some of their canon and John Mellencamp is no exception. At his sold-out Ravinia debut last night, he introduced “Jack and Diane” as a tune he only plays because he knows you want to hear it.

He didn’t give it short shrift and played it with a sense of humor and plenty of his big hits like “Small Town” and “Check It Out” were on the setlist, but the concert came alive with newer and lesser known material like “Lawless Times”, “Grandview”, (a terrific duet with opener and collaborator Carlene Carter) and, appropriately, his anti-fame epic “Pop Singer”.

A medley of material from his Cougar days was played as an instrumental whimsy on violin and accordion. John and his crack six piece band, dressed in basic black old west attire, brought the house (and the lawn) down with a hot mash of “Crumblin’ Down”, “Authority Song” and “Land of a 1000 Dances”. A few light showers did nothing to detract from a fantastic performance by a musician who is playing as well as he ever has.


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