I spent an unprecedented two days this weekend in the bosom of the Eastman Theatre. And it all started with an epiphany on Friday night: Turns out I’m a John Mellencamp fan.
Whadaya know? Mellencamp has always been the kind of artist so ensconced in our daily lives, that you never really needed to buy a record. One of your friends already had it, and if not, he was always on the radio. That’s also the reason I never felt the need to buy a Springsteen or Led Zeppelin album.
Despite his pop appeal, Mellencamp is really a roots-rocker with his sound and lyrics never venturing too far outside the heartland. His band Friday night was incredible. After a charming acoustic solo set by Carlene Carter, Mellencamp thundered out with “Lawless Times” to the roar of the sold-out crowd. He played most of the hits, except the one I really wanted to hear, “I Need a Lover,” and "Rockin’ in the USA” was noticeably absent.
What sent me over the top was the Tom Waits-y, sleazy jazz troubadour take on “The Full Catastrophe” -- that song killed me, along with the realization that I actually knew the words to most of Mellencamp's songs. Maybe I’ve been a fan longer than I thought.
The Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony was up and down dynamically, but offered a lot of variety. It was a little bumpy in its format, but I think this can be remedied by putting on a main host.
Inductee Joe Locke played a flurry of sweet vibraphoned notes skyward for his short and swingin’ two-song set. The James Rado tribute was wild and focused on “Hair” with a visit from non-Rochester musicians The Cowsills and Florence LaRue of the 5th Dimension.
Pee Wee Ellis’s induction set was a powerful punch of soul. Miss Danielle Ponder painted the walls with the audience’s brains as she did a killer take of James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World.” But the night belonged to the Rustix, who sounded fantabulous as they blazed through a set supported by the brass-tastic Prime Time Funk.
The most anticipated -- for me anyway -- performance of the night was the posthumous induction of rocker Wendy O. Williams. I mean this meant that members of her band got to play. Just think: The Plasmatics on The Eastman Theatre stage (it was raining frogs outside while they played).
Cheetah Whores member Liz O’Brien fronted the band for two songs before relinquishing the mic to ex-Runaway vocalist Cherie Currie. She completely phoned in her performance before leaving the stage unceremoniously. It was a completely flat ending to an other wise great night.