John Mellencamp @ Warner Theatre, Erie, PA 3-16-24

There isn’t much that John Mellencamp hasn’t seen or done. He has obtained many accolades in his career including being inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. He co-founded Farm Aid along with Willie Nelson and Neil Young which as raised over 78 million dollars to date to help out local farmers. In recent years, he also has become a successful painter as well. Besides this and other interests, his main focus has always to continue being a singer songwriter. In 2023, he released his 25th studio effort titled ‘Orpheus Descending.’ He currently is on tour in support of that record and this past Saturday made stop in Erie, PA. His first trip back to Erie since April of 2016.

The first 23 minutes of the show were short clips from various films that John personally hand selected.  It was supposed to give a sense of how these films influenced him as a musician. After the first few, the crowd became restless. Finally the screen went up the sound of air raid sirens and red swirling lights came about. It kind of gave the mood to the attendees what would take place if a mid west storm was coming (John still base his roots in the state of Indiana). Mellencamp and his band chose “John Cockers” off of 2008’s ‘Life, Death, Love and Freedom’ to open up the set. One of my personal favorites was up next in “Paper in Fire.” The band has remained the same outside of fiddle player Lisa Germano who took over for the departed Miriam Sturm in 2022. Mellencamp didn’t say too much in between songs and let the music do the talking through “The Eyes of Portland. He talked about his chance meeting of a homeless woman in Portland, which led to him writing the lyrics of this song.  His grandmothers influence led him to write “Longest Days.” Mellencamp talked about the relationship with her at the end of her life and unfortunately during the story, he had a few hecklers. Mellencamp dealt with it and it didn’t derail him from completing the show (as it has at other venues over the past year). His grandmother told him that life is short even in its longest days. Probably his most popular song in Jack & Diane” was up next. He did this song solo with just an acoustic guitar.  Next up was the odd moment of the set (or interesting depending on how you look at it). Mellencamp talked about his relationship with former actress Joanne Woodward. He had Woodward years ago do a spoken word to his song “The Real Life.”  All band members exited the stage. Only Germano with her fiddle and Troye Kinnett who played the accordion remained. They played to the track of  Woodward reading the lyrics to the song.  Mellencamp incorporated a snippet of the Them cover “Gloria” into “Crumblin’ Down.” They closed the show with a barrage of hits including “Pink Houses” and “Hurt So Good.”

I thought Mellencamp’s voice still has held up tremendously well after all of these years. His band still sounds tight and with the amount of songs he has, I’m sure he keeps the setlist fresh. Again, the only negative I would say is to decrease the amount of the film clips that is shown to maybe 10 minutes. Fans get turned off and patience wears thin after a certain amount of time. As it did on Saturday night. Otherwise, the show itself I thought was fantastic!




John Cockers

Paper in Fire

Minutes to Memories

Small Town

Human Wheels 

Jackie Brown

Check It Out

The Eyes of Portland

Longest Days

Jack & Diane

The Real Life (Joanne Woodward spoken word) 

Rain on the Scarecrow

Lonely Ol’ Night

What If I Came Knocking?

Crumblin’ Down/Gloria – snippet (Them cover)/Crumblin’ Down

Pink Houses

Cherry Bomb

Hurts So Good

We would like to thank Nicolas Schwed from Sacks & Co for the credentials to review the show.