(photo from Billboard)
#34 TOM PETTY (SUNDAY)
You never, ever know how many Tom Petty songs you’ll recognize from the first six notes until you see him live. Whether it’s a snatch of a recalled song from a movie trailer (“Learning to Fly” and every movie ever produced since its release), a remembered chorus from your dad’s stereo or spending any time in a coffeehouse chain, you know ‘em all and Petty still has the pipes to deliver.
Petty took full advantage of being the last act of Bonnaroo, assuring the adoring masse he had “nowhere to be but here tonight, let’s do this right”. Some audience members couldn’t hold out for the whole three-hour set (myself included), but Petty’s lullabies carried us back to the campgrounds and long into the torture that is packing a heap of stinky clothes.
Not surprisingly, the Heartbreakers pulled a good deal of material from artist of their age to cover, opening with “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star” (The Byrds), paying tribute to Big Joe Williams with “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, and a terrific rendition of the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” in addition to a Traveling Wilburys track. Petty, sixty-two, has more energy than ever and (at risk of sounding like a grandfather kisser) looks absolutely amazing, appearing almost exactly as he did in the eighties. Does stoner rock make you immortal? Are stoner rockers less shy about Botox than one would think? Who cares, Petty is taking a solo on “Free Fallin’”.
"Here’s one we can all sing along to," Petty smiled before launching into "I Won’t Back Down", and the same could be said for so much of his library— "Here Comes My Girl", "Mary Jane’s Last Dance", "American Girl", "Refugee" (!!!!!), and "You Wreck Me" all graced the all-star song lineup. Held against the setlists he’s been taking around the country in his most recent tour, Bonnaroo’s show was far more generous in bringing the hits, but the covers and deep cuts were dispersed enough to (hopefully) satisfy the Heartbreakers’ sense of variety.
Friday night brought British legend McCartney to the What Stage, Saturday brought some disappointment when Jack Johnson subbed in for Mumford, and so it felt good to see one of the hugest American bands of all time close the festival in the heart of Tennessee. Like an obese apple pie wrapped in a flag paying off a college loan.