John Mellencamp has spent decades perfecting his reputation as one of classic rock’s most uncompromising figureheads, one who’s not afraid to shift into full-blown cantankerousness as needed. He displayed both qualities during his May 25 concert in Cleveland, warning attendees that he would cut the performance short if they didn’t “shut the fuck up.”
The rocker made a stop at Playhouse Square as part of his ongoing Live and in Person tour, outlining his expectations for the audience well before he hit the stage. According to Cleveland Scene, the venue posted signs in its lobby that warned, “This show respects theater etiquette.” Following the 30-minute classic movie montage that opened the show, Mellencamp let it be known early in his set that “I don’t like people screaming from the fucking audience.”
Yet that didn’t stop one ticket-holder from shouting at Mellencamp to “play the fucking music” after he reportedly appeared to criticize the United States. That’s when the gloves came off.
“Listen, hey, you guys, if these people don’t shut the fuck up I’m just going to leave, OK?” Mellencamp told the audience. “Because I’m not used to this crap. Look, guys, if I wanted to play in this type of drunken environment, I’d play outside or I’d play in an arena.”
The “Pink Houses” singer issued a similar warning during a March performance in Grand Prairie, Texas, telling the crowd before the midshow acoustic portion, “This is the quiet part, so keep your fucking mouth shut,” according to the Dallas Observer. When a woman in the audience promptly broke the singer’s rule and shouted his name, Mellencamp fired back, “What did I just fucking say? But thank you.”
Mellencamp launched the Live and in Person tour in early February. The 76-date trek is scheduled to conclude on June 24 in South Bend, Indiana. He’ll release his 25th album, Orpheus Descending, on June 2. The 71-year-old songwriter pleaded for an end to gun violence on lead single “Hey God” and lamented the homelessness crisis on follow-up single “The Eyes of Portland.”
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