Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Mellencamp “Brand” Experience

Midwest rocker John Mellencamp rolled into Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island Tuesday night. He songs emoted what the Sun-Times described as “redemption, reflection and the open wounds of love.”

Here’s my review of the evening with the Mellencamp brand on full display. I’m applying the ForwardFast model to frame my thoughts:

• Likeability – He came right out with “Pink Houses,” “Paper on Fire” and an intense rendering of “I’m Not Running Anymore.” The audience connected because we could relate to old favorites, heard again in a new time and context.

• Logo – the black jeans, the t-shirt, the sepia rural back curtain, and of course, the hair (a little grayer, but I can relate).

• Quality Product – The new album, “Life, Death, Love and Freedom,” debuted on Billboard Album Chart at #7. Its roots-like sound is from album producer T-Bone Burnett (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and the year’s best album from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss). The album follows up last year's “Freedom's Road” which sold an equal amount of copies in the first week and also debuted in the top 10. This is Mellencamp's second consecutive album, and 9th total, to go Top 10. His career includes 19 albums that have charted!

• Associations – Before performing “The Authority Song,” he spoke to his controversial activities. Politics, smoking, cussing, and “that truck TV commercial”. Add FarmAid to the list, and you’ve got some pretty strong brand associations.

• Attitude – the rebel is still there, but now a bit wiser and tempered by time. He dusted off “Minutes to Memories” from 1985, telling the crowd he was 34 when he wrote the song. “I thought I was getting older at the time,” he said. “It now has a whole different meaning to me.”

One reviewer noted that, with a measured nuance, he sang about how life sweeps away the dreams we have planned. Such is the beauty of rock evolution, the review says, you can stare at an old song like a relic on a shelf (Mick Jagger and “Satisfaction”) or you can view the song as a prism of varied reflection (the way Bob Dylan rearranges his hits).

• Quality Experience – Everyone clapped, danced, and sang every word of “Crumblin’ Down” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” The band has its own standout in violinist Miriam Sturm. Then during the middle of a driving “Jack and Diane,” Mellencamp asked the crowd to take out their cell phones and call a friend to listen in. He even took a phone to say hello to an unsuspecting friend at home. Nice twist on the old lighter-flame-in-the-air.

Overall, this was one of the best brands of concert I’ve seen – and my friends know I see a lot of shows. Check it out below.

No comments: