Twenty years before September 18th, 2001 ground was broken on the Lutes Mountain in Moncton to make way for a Papal visit and holy, was there a lot of people there to see him (myself included). The site then laid dormant for…well, seemingly forever as we all waited for the city to get around to finally turning the landscaped and accessible patch of land into a concert venue.
Finally, after more than a dozen years they announced that John Mellencamp (née Cougar) would be the first to christen the Pope site with rock and roll and I jumped on a ticket. I had long wanted to see John Cougar, his music bleeds in as the soundtrack for a lot of pivotal moments in my early rock and roll days, plus he had a Springsteen-like reputation as a hard-driving, straight-ahead performer that could knock your socks firmly off.
Then he went and had a heart attack about a week before the concert, tickets were refunded and no makeup show was ever announced. By the time Moncton actually starting bringing concerts to the site (and big concerts at that) I had moved away to Ottawa.
So it was with that kind of history that I walked into the Palladium just outside of Ottawa to finally see Mr. Jack and Diane. Opening the show was The Wallflowers, which somehow fails to stand out in my memory just as much as their opening set at Zaphod’s from a decade earlier does, even though by this time I must have known that Jakob Dylan was the band’s frontman.
But of course I was there for the headliner, to taste that rock and roll potato chip that had been yanked from my hand so many years before. And the show was…pretty good.
But there’s absolutely no way I’m being fair about that. He stood at the edge of the stage in jeans and a t-shirt with nothing but a microphone and great band behind him and belted out a lifetime of great, no-BS rock and roll. But that explosive oomph that I had heard about back in Mellencamp’s pre-heart attack days, that unbridled energy that surely propelled a John Cougar concert above and beyond his contemporaries just wasn’t there anymore. It couldn’t be there anymore…after all, the dude has survived a heart attack! He can’t go risking another just because I paid $50 to get my socks off, and that’s a-okay with me.
But really, I feel no need to see him again. Hurts So Good.