Yesterday I enjoyed one of the coolest nights in recent memory thanks to my sister and the immortal Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The fact that I was already resigned to the fact that I had flaked again and would miss it made it even more special. Not so, because the night before my conservative Lite FM listening sister called with FREE tickets!
“What?! Yes I wanna go tomorrow! How’d you get tickets?! Where are we meeting? Can I get there in time? Barely, huh. Ok, I’m so in! No back stage passes? Never mind, you’re the greatest!”
Woke up next day. First thought, “I’m going to see Tom Petty tonight.” Still trying to process. Didn’t really sink in.
Driving to work. Setting the tone. New album Hypnotic Eye pushing the little Saturn’s speakers to their limit. Singing along…..
“You get me hiiiiigh” She sure does Tom.
“I got a few of my own fault lines….. runnin under my life” Don’t we all Tom? Don’t we all?
Work flys by. Run to the car. Time to shuffle the hits and burn up the Garden State Parkway……
“You got lucky” Yeah I did!
“I put the pedal down… to save some time” Good idea!
It’s sinking in. I’m going to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!
Walking in with the late crowd. They’re a tad older than me and Sis (She’s in her early thirties I’m in my mids). One grey haired couple have matching Grateful Dead t-shirts and really red eyes. Vaguely familiar sounds of the opening act Stevie Winwood fill the air along with a distinctly familiar aroma. I do not partake, but welcome the smell. It’s like walking into Grandma’s house on Christmas Day, and the smell of roasting turkey greets you, letting you know that this is a special occasion, and a good time is about to be had by all. Sis doesn’t like the smell of “turkey”, and makes a scrunchy face. I’m delighted at her disapproval. This is a microcosm of our relationship.
We get to our seats. Stevie is finishing up. Rocking out to an old sixties Sly and the Family Stone style song. House lights up. Tom’s turn soon. The waiting is the hardest part, but Lucinda Williams playing on the P.A. makes it bearable. Don’t know Lucinda? Check her out, and thank me later. Anyway, Sis is making small talk about job and shopping stuff, and I’m going “Yeah, yeah I bet they either open or close with American Girl. And they gotta play You Wreck Me…. Won’t Back Down…. New album’s great. You gotta get it.” Poor Sis is re-thinking her decision to come with a crazy person.
Lights come down. Shadowy guitar strapped figures take the stage. Drumsticks click their unsaid count off. 1,2,3,4. Stage lights. Tom and the boys are off and running. Some warm upbeat number I’ve never even heard of. Tom’s silky falsetto, Mike Cambell’s ringing Les Paul, the steady back beat drummer. Yeah, I’m gonna enjoy this.
Song ends to a rousing ovation. Tom opens his arms to the crowd with a heartfelt “Thank you so much!”. He would do this multiple times during the evening, and his earnesty about it was evident.
The band then expertly navigated thru a set full of monster hits including Free Fallin, Mary Jane’s Last Dance and Into The Great Wide Open. Tom belted out Refugee and I Won’t Back Down like he was 19 again. He led us thru a 20,000 person sing along on Learning To Fly with the band laying back quietly slowing down the tempo creating a real special moment.
“This is from our new album.” If you went to the bathroom during these we can’t be friends. U Get Me High (correct spelling) was definitely a highlight. Had me banging my head like a maniac as the guitar screams towards the end. American Dream Part B hits you with a decidedly harder than your average Heartbreakers riff. And Tom’s lyrics are appropriately poignant and timely. Again, my inner metal fan child was let loose. Maybe that’s why my neck hurts today.
Along the way there were diversions like a rockin Elvis cover where Tom put down his guitar and grabbed some maracas. Again, I’ve never heard this song, but it was great. He introed the song by talking about his childhood and hearing Elvis sing the simple phrase “Uh huh”. He loved it so much, that it sent him down a path his parents thought of as freaky. Tom danced around as much as he could for a few minutes, and ended the song by casually tossing the maracas over his head.
Finale. What a great night of music already, and Runnin Down a Dream kicks off with its familiar hard charging riff. Crowd on its feet (surprisingly standing seemed to be a chore for the baby boomers most of the night). “Workin on a mystery. Goin wherever it leads…” The boys are jammin! I’m in head banger heaven. “Woo, ooh. “Woo, ooh, Woo, ooh”. Mike Campbell absolutely destroys on the solo! My face melts off. G’night!
Encore. First few bars of You Wreck Me are played. I scream “Yes!” like an idiot. Sis pretends she doesn’t know me, and we ROOOOOCK! “Oh ohh, yeah ahh”
American Girl closes an epic set. The old hippies, young hipsters, Sis and I sing alone gleefully and reluctantly cheer goodbye to Tom and his Heartbreakers.
What an awesome night. Thanks Tom, Heartbreakers and Sis!