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Watch Bruce Springsteen’s Surprise Performance of ‘Pink Houses’ With John Mellencamp

Springsteen made an unannounced appearance near the end of Mellencamp’s concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark

Near the end of John Mellencamp‘s set Sunday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey, surprise guest Bruce Springsteen came out to join him on “Pink Houses.” Springsteen didn’t have a guitar, but he sang the entirety of the second verse to roars from the crowd. They locked voices for the final “vacation down in the Gulf of Mexico” verse.

“Pink Houses” and many of Mellencamp’s other signature hits came out near the pinnacle of Springsteen’s career in the Eighties. The rock press often compared them in ways that were less than flattering to Mellencamp. A full-page illustration in a January 1990 issue of Rolling Stone by artist C.F. Payne showed Woody Guthrie as a teacher in a classroom with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp as his students. Dylan is taking notes from Guthrie’s lecture that Springsteen is copying. Mellencamp is behind him, copying his copied notes.

In December 2019, Mellencamp and Springsteen played “Pink Houses” and “Glory Days” together at Sting’s semi-annual Rainforest Benefit. The experience gave them to opportunity to finally spend an extended period of time together, igniting a close friendship. A couple of years later, Mellencamp invited Springsteen to his Belmont, Indiana, recording studio. The sessions yielded “Did You Say Such a Thing,” “Wasted Days,” and “A Life Full of Rain” for Mellencamp’s 2022 LP Strictly a One-Eyed Jack.

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“Bruce has a wonderful way of having humility and tenacity, all at the same time,” Mellencamp told Billboard. “He can get his ideas across with humility and an ability to do what he wants to do. He’s run his own band longer than I have, so I don’t have to say, ‘Hey Bruce, how about…?’ He says, ‘How about if I try this?’ and ‘How about if I try that?’ And he’s Bruce Springsteen — sure, try it.”

Mellencamp is going to send the next few months playing shows across America. In July, he’ll team up with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson for a leg of the Outlaw Music Festival. Springsteen, meanwhile, is resuming his world tour on March 19 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The tour was interrupted in September so Springsteen could recover from a peptic ulcer. Many of the shows are makeup dates.

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