John Mellencamp took his music to the streets in 2000, and an upcoming movie and live album will commemorate the tour that caught many fans off guard.
The Indiana Rock and Roll Hall of Famer announced “The Good Samaritan Tour” will arrive this spring as a documentary film and live album.
Across three weeks in August 2000, Mellencamp played pop-up shows in 10 U.S. cities. Many of the unplugged performances were presented in Downtown business districts.
“You know, (Woody) Guthrie used to go out and play for the workers in the field,” Mellencamp said during a press conference after the tour wrapped up on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. “People don’t work in fields anymore; they work in office buildings. I felt like we were doing the same thing.”
The Bloomington show proved to be the least organic of the tour, thanks to a stage and full amplification prepared at Woodlawn Field. About 10,000 people showed up for the afternoon event on Aug. 31, but that wasn’t the largest “Good Samaritan” crowd.
On Aug. 21, an estimated audience of 15,000 showed up at Daley Plaza in Chicago.
Mellencamp said two tour highlights were Philadelphia and Cleveland. Philadelphia received a nod because Mellencamp, accordion player Mike Flynn and violin player Merritt Lear launched the tour there with zero advance notice.
Cleveland stood out because police officers stood next to the musicians in Public Square, attempting to keep the peace.
“It was the cops and the walkie-talkies,” Mellencamp said. “Photographers were hitting each other. It was stupid, but it was really fun. There was a real, immediate rock ’n’ roll vibe in Cleveland.”
Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey serves as narrator for the “Good Samaritan” documentary. McConaughey appeared in the video that accompanied Mellencamp’s “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)” in 1996, and the actor wore a Mellencamp T-shirt onscreen in the film “A Time to Kill” that same year.
A teaser trailer for the film features Mellencamp’s rendition of “Early Bird Cafe,” a song originally recorded by the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood in 1970.
Mellencamp devoted most of the “Good Samaritan” shows to cover songs, including tunes popularized by Guthrie, Blind Willie Johnson, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Donovan and Eddie Cochran.
Turning to original compositions, Mellencamp released an excerpt of a new song titled “I Always Lie to Strangers” to preview a studio album presently in the works.