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You Wreck Me
Mary Jane's Last Dance
I Won't Back Down
Even The Losers
Cabin Down Below
End Of The Line (Traveling Wilburys)
Face In The Crowd
You Don't Know How It Feels
Learning To Fly
Don't Come Around Here No More
Runnin' Down A Dream
(6/11/08) It was a nice day for a concert. Warm, but with a bit of wind to keep it from being too warm. There was a most beautiful cloud formation stacked up against the horizon, riding out to the venue. The clouds were lit by the sun from above, blue masses outlined in white. For once, I think I understand what they mean by clouds with "silver linings". Some of the formations actually looked like cotton candy. There are nice clouds, and there are ugly clouds, and then there are magnificent clouds - and these were magnificent. It rained a little bit while we were in the parking lot, but it didn't last long at all (and it was refreshing), and it mercifully stayed dry the rest of the night.
The show was packed as expected. Maybe not sold out, but definitely close to it otherwise. I had heard earlier that the only seats left were in the section not under the roof - in the back of the seated area, and in front of the lawn. That's where our seats were. I had some concert pizza before the show started - it was decent, the crust was actually pretty good. We stood out on the lawn for a few moments, taking in the scenery, before heading to our seats for the opener.
Steve Winwood played a good set. Most of the songs he did I did not recognize, and he said that he was playing a number of tracks from his new album. But even those sounded nice - they had a nice groove, almost a tropical flavor to some of them, with some interesting flute and brass parts. With the sun setting off to one side, and the mild temperature, it kind of felt like being at some lakeside bar while on vacation, with a groovy house band setting the mood. Not bad at all.
And the songs that I did recognize were even better. I'm A Man was cool to hear. There was a Blind Faith track - Can't Find My Way Home. And probably my favorite song of the night - Dear Mr. Fantasy. Steve Winwood spent a lot of the set playing at the keyboard, but for this and a couple other songs he picked up a guitar, and let me tell you, he can play a good solo. Fantasy sounded fantastic, and there were some great sections where the energy and volume picked up to a high. I think hearing this song alone was worth being at the show. Winwood finished his not unhealthily-lengthed set with a kicking run through Gimme Some Lovin', which was a great song to end the opening act and lead in to the main show, with the line "so glad you made it".
During the break between the opener and the main act, I worked my way through the crowds to get some nachos, which were good, and which I finished before the main show began. The sun had set at that point, and it was dark. When the impressive rig on the stage lit up, the crowd knew the show was about to begin. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers kicked into an energetic set filled with a healthy dose of popular hits, and even a few tasty surprises.
The opening song was You Wreck Me, followed by Mary Jane's Last Dance. I have to be honest, I think Mary Jane's Last Dance is a better song, and deserves a better treatment than a quick run-through near the top of the setlist. Still, it's a great song, and I can't argue with getting to hear it live.
As of right now, I don't remember the exact order of the songs played, or necessarily which songs were played, but I'll mention the ones that made an impression on me. It was great to hear Honey Bee, which is a nice little rocker that my brother introduced me to, and not one that you particularly hear on the radio.
At one point, Tom Petty introduced a song (Sweet William), which he said that most of us had probably never heard (it was true for me), because it was only released on a 4-song EP in Germany, or something like that. It was a pretty kick-ass song, with some impressive instrumental jumps. It was a treat to hear, even though I didn't know it, and I can't help thinking how nice it would be if the band switched out some of the less-musically-complicated standards like Free Fallin' and Learning To Fly for some harder rocking lesser-known tunes. Nothing against those more popular tracks, they certainly have their place, but you hear 'em a few times and then you start thinking what else you could be listening to instead.
When I listen to music, I rarely pay attention to the lyrics. To me, the voice is just another instrument, and it's how it sounds that matters, not so much what it's saying. For that reason, it's pretty interesting that Tom Petty is one of the artists that's actually able to make an impression on me with lyrics. He has some pretty great songs with pretty great messages, and hearing some of these popular songs live, as boring as it is to hear the same pop tune again and again, can /still/ make an emotional impact on me - like when Tom sings, "you can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won't back down." That's powerful. And motivational.
Originally, I didn't like Tom Petty so much, because of the "Petty" factor - the way in which he seemed to write songs for the underdogs in life, to give them motivation or whatever. But then, ironically, I started liking his music for that same exact reason. Maybe I started to see myself as one of those underdogs, and the music began to mean something to me. Whatever the case, when my brother mentioned something about "Even The Losers" one day, about how in the song Petty wasn't the loser getting lucky, it was the girl he was singing about that was the loser that got lucky to be with him ("it couldn't have been that easy to forget about me"), it planted a seed that has gradually changed my impression of Petty's music once again. And listening to the band play last night, I started thinking about the fact that the band is called the Heartbreakers. These aren't underdogs, these are the bad boys - not ones that go around shooting people and wreaking havoc, but just normal people who go through life, not afraid to take what they feel entitled to, even if it means breaking a few hearts along the way - and not feeling sorry about it. The line in Free Fallin' sums it up perfectly - "I'm a bad boy, cause I don't even miss her; I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart; and I'm free."
Tom and the gang seemed to be having a lot of fun throughout the show. Tom explained that they were stuck in Dulles earlier (the airport, I assume) due to weather delays, and that he was very happy just to have been able to make it to the show. In fact, before playing The Waiting, Tom explained that he had had that song on his mind all day. During one of the breaks between songs, the audience struck up a chant of "Petty, Petty", and Tom reacted in a visibly embarrassed way. They all seemed to be having fun.
I recognized Saving Grace when the band started playing it, if only because of the tell-tale John Lee Hooker rhythm that backs it. But this was a world away from the radio single. The intro featured some smoking slide guitar leads by Mike Campbell, which continued into the song, which was extended considerably into a nice little jam. If only more pop hits were treated in this loose and rocking fashion, maybe I wouldn't be so averse to the idea of pop music.
Refugee also sounded very good - but it's such a great song, it'd be hard to mess it up. One greatest hit that I'd still like to hear live is Breakdown, but it doesn't seem like they play it these days. Oh well. The encore was pretty predictable, though not to say that it wasn't good. Running Down A Dream was very powerful, with great guitar leads as usual. Then they cut into an unmistakable Bo Diddley beat, which either turned into or turned out to be Mystic Eyes, a Van Morrison tune that Petty likes to play, which was powerfully emotional, especially with the line "what if for just one brief moment in time, everything was alright?" I don't think there's a person alive that can't sympathize with the sentiment in that line. And the final encore, as I had correctly predicted to myself, was American Girl - a song you can't go to a Tom Petty concert without hearing. It's funny, but since seeing the classic horror title Dementia 13, I can't listen to American Girl without thinking of that movie. Not that that's a bad thing...
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