"She's a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too…"
I didn't expect this so early in the set.
Maybe it's the mention of the Valley. Or Mulholland. But TP is now seen as a SoCal act. Not a guy who moved to L.A. and dated actresses and was featured in gossip columns, but one of us, one of the civilians who got a taste of the weather and the emotional freedom and said to himself THIS IS THE PLACE!
It didn't start out this way. Like so many Angelenos, Tom Petty was born far from the promised land. But he grew up listening to so many productions created here. We were glued to the radio. Listening to the tunes from Liverpool, London and L.A. We took up guitars, started to play, and some stuck with it. Like Tom and world-class Mike Campbell. And after knocking around in cover bands, some decided to go all the way and try to make it. They weren't looking for momentary success, this was a calling, education fell by the wayside, it was all in.
Some succeeded. Most did not. But those that made it loved the travel, the drugs, the lifestyle, but first and foremost came the music. They didn't want to be actors, they didn't want to endorse perfumes, they just wanted to plug in their guitars and wail.
And now it's decades later.
The audience does not look the same. But the audience remembers. When you didn't listen to talk radio in the car, but music.
TP was not part of the first wave. But like the classics, he sustained, he's got a body of work.
That was the most impressive thing Friday night. This is not GaGa, this is not Bieber, Tom's got a CAREER! He doesn't need to dance, doesn't have to distract us in any way, because the music is enough. The sheer breadth of the material, from "American Girl" to the new "Mojo" tracks, was positively staggering.
So with his hair a bit more brown than blonde, Tom takes the stage, the band falls in behind him and the whole Bowl starts to levitate. We were free fallin'!
Everybody knew every word. Everybody had seen that video on MTV, you know, the one with the girl on the skateboard ramp. Yes, we baby boomers watched the music television channel. We were intrigued, we couldn't believe we could get this close to our favorite artists, we were riveted.
And it wasn't only oldsters in attendance. It was a cornucopia of SoCal. And it wasn't calcified. The tunes are not so old that we were only looking backward, Tom has soldiered on, like us. This is not the farewell tour, but another step in the endless tour.
Yes, Tom's played with Dylan. And the Dead. They recognized something in him. That he came from the same place, where music is first. And so do we.
"I Won't Back Down" was early too. This guy's got so much material, he doesn't have to save the big hits.
And that riff in "Mary Jane's Last Dance"…IT STUNG!
And the cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well"…OH WELL! Mike Campbell played Peter Green's part better than Lindsey Buckingham ever has. And that's not a put-down of the incredible Lindsey, just an indication how great MIKE IS!
And the mix is fantastic. So we can hear Benmont's piano.
And Steve Ferrone shows his roots from AWB. He's playing tastefully, never too much, but just right.
And to have Ron Blair back in the band is such a hoot. It gives us all hope that we can come full circle.
They'd been on the road for months. They were in America's most famous outdoor venue. They were in front of family and friends. They needed to DELIVER!
And boy did they. Not by overdoing it, not by amping it up, but by doing what they do best, just playing.
I saw Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers back in '77. At the Whisky. Pretty spectacular. I've seen him at the Fabulous Forum. But this was the best I've ever seen the band. Like great wine, they'd aged, they were seasoned. The greats get better, not worse. Only in this messed up business are you supposed to emerge fully-formed and then thrown on the scrapheap shortly thereafter. Being an artist is a process. You're foraging in the wilderness, finding your way. Learning and getting better along the way.
I could get into the nitty-gritty, but I'll make it simple. You know those gigs where you jump to your feet when the band takes the stage, you feel the adrenaline and just can't help but rise up? And you know every word and you're amongst 18,000 and you feel the community but are somehow alone, marinating in your memories? And you sing into the sky, as if communicating with God? And you tingle, because you feel so good, so alive?
IT WAS LIKE THAT!