Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Twenty-five years and (give or take) two months ago, I went to see my ninth rock concert, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with 'Til Tuesday (featuring Aimee Mann!) at the Brendan Byrne Arena. Tonight I returned to the scene of the crime to see Tom and the band (this time with My Morning Jacket opening).

I'm not as wide-eyed about concerts anymore (I've been to hundreds, and maybe over a thousand, since then - one day I've got to try and tally the number).  But I'm a bigger fan of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers than ever. To my ears, their music gets better every year. I loved their last album, The Last DJ, as well as Tom's recent projects: his solo album Highway Companion and especially the Mudcrutch reunion/debut album. The new album, Mojo, is taking a bit of time for me. I love some of the new songs ("No Reason To Cry" is gorgeous, "Jefferson Jerico Blues" rocks righteously). But some of it sounds like it was more fun to play than it is to listen to.  Still, Tom is very behind the album, and played four songs in a row from the new album. It's kind of a bummer that most people there didn't realize that if they bought tickets for the show, they get a free download of the album (there were video ads pointing out "yes, you've already paid for it!").  Tom's been at this for a while, and as much as he dodges the "classic rock"/"oldies" thing, he knows there's only so much he can get away with, so the rest of the show was a pretty standard list of hits, along one of my favorites, "Kings Highway" from Into The Great Wide Open, andthe frequently covered Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac classic "Oh Well." I guess it's kind of churlist to say that Tom should be doing different things live at this stage of the game: the arena was nearly sold out in a summer where everyone is having a hard time selling tickets.  And everyone seemed to have a great time. I just wish he was taking more risks live.  Back in 1996, when the band did their exteded residency at San Francisco's Fillmore in support of (and instead of touring for) She's The One, it altered their chemistry as a live band.  They brought back lots of old songs, did lots of covers, and it seemed like anything could happen at one of Tom's shows (as opposed to most of his "classic rock" peers, whose concerts were enjoyable yet predictable). I guess I would love to see them recharge by doing a club stint (preferably on the east coast!).  That said, the band was great (notably guitarist Mike Campbell, who seems to be FINALLY getting his due as one of the best guitarists) and no one at the concert had a complaint, it was an excellent show.

My Morning Jacket were good as well.  I've expressed admiration for frontman Jim James before, but I sometimes think of the band as health food.  I know they're good for music, and I should probably listen to them more, but I sometimes find them boring.  And tonight's performance had it's dull moments.  But there were also great ones - the best being during their one semi-hit single (that I know of, anyway), "I'm Amazed." Incredible song. The audience loved it, and the band seemed to enjoy playing it.  I know a lot of indie bands have a thing about hit singles, like they aren't cool.  But if I were an indie band worrying about such things, I'd look no further than tonight's headliner to see how to rack up multiple hits and never lose credibility.

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