No Better Than This: The Magic Of a Concert

I went to a concert with my brother and remembered the real power of a live show

By kncitom on March 27, 2023
John Mellencamp performs March 21 2023 at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center, Sacramento (Photo: Tom Mailey)

Working in radio as a long as I have, I’ll admit that I can take a live concert for granted. Often, we’re at a show as part of our job. Even if we’re legitimate fans of the artist playing, for me there is still a weird sort of mental separation between the artist and myself, like I can’t quite give myself over to the show entirely because, in a way, I’m still on the clock.

Recently though, I was able to set that aside and just go to a show and be a fan. A loud one, at that (Yeah, I can be that guy). But there was something else that made the concert special, that reminded me of the magic of live music. 

My older brother Dan.

I have been a fan of John Mellencamp since around 1985. I love his songwriting, his compassion for the underdog, his signature no-BS attitude. And, he rocks. So, when I saw he was playing the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center, I got tickets. And even though my brother, who is 13 years older than me, grew up in the late sixties a fan of artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Janis Joplin, he’s a fan of Mellecamp too. Not like I am – I’m a deep-cut fan. But Dan knows the hits, and (to paraphrase a line from one of Mellencamp’s best songs, Small Town), that was good enough for me. 

Plus, last year was pretty lousy for Dan. He was hospitalized for a week back in July with some pretty scary health issues and he still hasn’t fully recovered so as soon I got the tickets, I called him and told him we were going to the show. I wanted him to have something to look forward to. To his credit, despite not feeling 100%, he didn’t hesitate and said yes.

Also, in a small way, I wanted to repay him for being such a powerfully positive influence in my life. It hasn’t always been perfect but hey, we’re brothers. Bottom line? My love of fishing, basketball, music, an oversized sense of humor..? All of that comes from Dan. Heck, he took me to my first concert ever, Billy Joel at the Seattle Center Coliseum in 1978. I was 15. Even though Dan was a lot older than me, he always included me. And feeling cool enough to hang with him is one of my life’s great memories. So yeah, I wanted to include him.

After dinner at Mayahuel on K Street- where Dan tried ordering a taco salad and got a “Bless Your Heart” look from our waitress- we went to the show, and Mellencamp did not disappoint. He and his band turned in a stellar two hour set. With his OG smolder, the artist Formerly-Known-As-Johnny-Cougar prowled the stage with a swagger that can only come from 50+ years in rock and roll. He sang his hits, his anthems, and some of his newer stuff, which deal less with the youthful passion of Jack and Diane and more with tough issues like the relentless certainty of aging. It was the 5th time I’ve seen him and it was the best show I’ve been to, but not because Mellencamp was in top form (which he was). 

It was the best because, you guessed it, I was there with my brother, just rocking out in Row P. We sang, clapped, cheered,, fist pumped and high fived each other a dozen times. For two hours, we were in the moment, just two brothers enjoying each others’ company. Worries, health concerns, tomorrow... all of that could wait. The only thing that mattered right then was the music. 

After he returned to Portland, he sent me a text.

Been thinking about yesterday all day today.

Thanks so much for the treat. It was great fun!”

One of those aforementioned songs about growing older is a beautiful ballad inspired by words Mellencamp’s grandmother spoke to him shortly before she died, called Longest Days. As John sang, I couldn’t help but think about Dan and how lucky I was to have, in the seat right next to me, my role model and friend.

My brother.

Mellencamp has a Greatest Hits album with the understated title, “No Better Than This“.  This moment was that.

It was magical.

Longest Days

Seems like once upon a time agoI was where I was supposed to beMy vision was true and my heart was tooThere was no end to what I could dream
I walked like a hero into the setting sunEveryone called out my nameDeath to me was just a mysteryI was too busy raising up Cain
But nothing lasts foreverYour best efforts don’t always paySometimes you get sick and you don’t get betterThat’s when life is short, even in its longest days
So you pretend not to noticeThat everything has changedWay that you look and the friends you once hadSo you keep on acting the same
Deep down in your soulYou know you, you got no flameAnd who knows then which way to goLife is short, even in its longest days
All I got here, is a rear view mirrorReflections of where I’ve beenSo you tell yourself I’ll be back up on top some dayBut you know there’s nothing waiting up there for you anyway
Nothing lasts foreverAnd your best efforts don’t always paySometimes you get sick and you don’t get betterThat’s when life is short even in its longest daysLife is short even in its longest days




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