These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tom Petty, pot, and God's light show

What a wild and crazy time Dawn and I had at the Tom Petty concert Thursday night in Noblesville, Ind.. It was a show that I won't soon forget.
We got there several hours before and rested. The show was held outdoors at an amphitheater. It was a big bowl cut into the hill with the stage and some seating under a pavilion. We sat on the grassy area just beyond the pavilion, stage center.
It was hot but tolerable as the sun beat down on us. But soon the clouds started coming in and made it easier to cope. And the crowd started coming. Soon there was 26,000 crazy fans there.
The Black Crowes hit the stage promptly at 7 and the crowd dug it. The jams were great but they sang only two songs I knew. They didn't sing "Hard to Handle" or "She Talks to Angels."
The youngin' there were shaking and grooving. Three large screens around the top of the pavilion provided views of the band for the lawn people.
Droplets began falling here and there, just enough to dampen our clothes and some thunder rumbled in the distance. But they played on performed a lot of instrumentals, though. Maybe it's something new for them.
That got the crowd going; they even sang to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" when it was playing during the intermission. People kept looking up at the sky and hoping the impending rain would hold off. And it did...For awhile anyway.
By the time Petty took the stage at 9, it was getting ominous out. The clouds were threatening.. But that was soon forgotten when the lights went out and the first cords came across the speakers through Petty's guitar.
Petty came onstage and it was magical. The crowd stood and piled up together. The crowd went nuts, singing along to just about every song.
The second song brought on the pot. People toked up all over the place. The air was rife with it. It was something I hadn't smelled since my teenage concert days. It was refreshing in a weird way.
For about the first forty minutes he played all songs I knew from his greatest hits. He played an Animals song, a Traveling w. song and some new stuff. Then when he was into "Learning to Fly" the droplets began to fall heavily. But the lightning display was awesome.
During the first part of the show, when the lightning was providing more lighting than the stage, Petty said "God's got his own light show going on." That got the crowd cheering.
It was amazing that someone who's been around for 30 years can provide such enthusiasm from the crowd, which consisted of both young and old. A vast majority of the songs were being sung by the crowd.
We had dancing couples (girls dancing together), a guy pointing to my shirt with big eyes and weird expression on his face (he liked my Beatles shirt) and another guy gave me a high five during the show. People come together during these types of shows. It's like a camaraderie is formed by the crowd and we all become one.
As the lightning got worse, the lights went out -- twice -- stopping the show for about five seconds. But it didn't deter Petty, who kept on playing in synch as if nothing happened and the crowd kept on singing and screaming when the lights quit. They kept on going.
It was until about an hour and ten minutes into the set when the rain finally fell and fell heavily. Petty cut the show short by twenty five minutes.
Yet the show was fulfilling and probably one of the best I've seen to so far. Maybe even the best. There was something going on there -- a connection between him and the crowd. When he played "Last Dance for Mary Jane," the crowd lost it. He does make two references in it to Indiana town and Indiana boys. So cool.
Would I see him again? Oh, hell yeah.
(continued in next entry)