Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tom Petty, June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl

You might think that Tom Petty would play all the hits for an entire show. But when you've been making music for over 30 years like a legend like Petty has, you fairly well have free-reign to play what you like, to say nothing of the fact that you're probably sick of playing "Break Down" for the last three decades. Playing a big space like the Hollywood Bowl (on June 25) is a double-edged sword for expectations: for a crowd like that, they're going to expect a lot of hits but Petty is not likely to play a smaller place so he doesn't have to please such a big crowd and can just play what he wants, not necessarily the big hits. But that night he opened and closed with enough hits and everything rocked so well that so I doubt the crowd was terribly disappointed. At least one song he played only because he had to, being "Free Fallin'" which the band obligatorily played with clearly no passion and within the first 20 minutes of the show. He gets the award for playing quite possibly the most obscure song from any career from any show I've ever seen by playing "Sweet William," according to him a song from a Europe-only E.P. from 10 years ago. The middle of the show started to drag, especially when they brought out opener Steve Winwood to play two of his own songs and Petty stood in the back as just a guitar-player. Vanessa (who got the tickets) and I got there late so I could avoid Winwood and then they brought him out, which was clearly for the benefit of the band rather than the crowd. Tom Petty has made a resurgence in recent years, Steve Winwood hasn't. The songs shortly after that didn't do much to get anyone going, especially "Honey Bee," which had the only thing going for it being that it's really old. "A Face in the Crowd," a rarely-played track from Full Moon Fever, and a mostly acoustic "Learning to Fly" got some lovely airings but I was losing interest. Finally the show took off again toward the end of "Don't Come Around Here No More" and carried strongly through "Refugee" then that was the end of the main set. Luckily, the momentum went through the encore of "Runnin' Down a Dream," a rousing cover of "Gloria," and ending with -- predictably -- "American Girl." The end of the show finally matched the rollicking SuperBowl performance but by that time it was over. Looking back at the show, Petty played 20 songs over almost two hours, which doesn't seem right since all of the cuts in their original form were radio-length, but in concert the band stretched out the end of the songs with a mini-jam that would have been fine if it didn't happen for nearly every single tune. It should have gone on another hour but there's only so much you can do. What was good was great but the rest was just another show that this road-weary warrior has played a thousand times before, unfortunately. I planned to see Petty again at Outside Lands two months later and to be honest, I wouldn't have gotten these tickets if I'd known that I would be going to that show, but I didn't mind at the time (though I did later, when he played nearly identical sets at both shows). Petty is one of those artists who has integrity as an entertainer enough to not sleep-walk through a show but that doesn't stop him from playing the same set every night. But he doesn't have the same crowd every night so give it to him on a technicality. And because he's, you know, Tom friggin' Petty.

Tom Petty's set-list:
"You Wreck Me
"Listen to Her Heart"
"I Won't Back Down"
"Even the Losers"
"Free Fallin'"
"Mary Jane's Last Dance"
"Sweet William"
"End of the Line" (Traveling Wilburys cover)
"Can't Find My Way Home" (Blind Faith cover) (with Steve Winwood)
"Gimme Some Lovin'" (The Spencer Davis Group cover) (with Steve Winwood)
"Saving Grace"
"Honey Bee"
"A 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"
"Gloria" (Them cover)
"American Girl"