In his 30 year career Tom Petty has sold more than 50 million albums, received three Grammy awards, a Golden Note award, the Gershwin Award For Lifetime Musical Achievement, and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So why doesn’t he seem to get more respect?
To me, it stems from his ability to continually knock out solid albums in a steady fashion for all those years. Every couple of years, Petty puts out an album full of solidly good, if not great material. There are usually a couple of standout hits in each, but no album really rises above the rest. Think about it. Is there one Petty album that you would consider to be an absolute classic? What is his Revolver? Or Dark Side of the Moon? Or Blonde on Blonde? No, in my ever so humble opinion, none of his albums quite make it to that genius level.
Petty’s career has remained relatively stable over the last three decades as well. He continues to put out solid albums, record hit songs and take his band on the road. There haven’t been any giant breakdowns or burn outs. He hasn’t even faded away. No, there has always been a Tom Petty making good songs and churning out classic rock. Where almost all of your great rock bands have all died by one mean or another, Petty has remained one of the few rockers to keep truckin’.
I think by continually putting out good, not great albums so steadily it is easy for the casual fan to overlook Petty’s achievement. Without one brilliant album to cling to, his dozen really good ones get overlooked. By never leaving our presence, it’s easy to sort of forget about how remarkable his career really is.
Double Down Stage
Las Vegas, NV
Download this show via Bittorrent
One of the great things about Tom Petty’s long career is that he can play a different set list almost every night and still sprinkle it heavily with hit songs. For this performance he performs half a dozen of his hit singles, while mixing in songs from his newest album, Highway Companion, slightly obscure older songs, and a few BB King covers.
The Heartbreakers never veer far from the original versions of the songs, but perform with the vibrant energy only found at live concerts. Occasionally there is an extended guitar solo, but it never wanders far from the song’s melody and always ends way too quickly for these ears. Mike Campbell proves over and over that while he may never make it to any top lists of greatest guitarist lists, he is more than capable of producing sweet licks and charbroiled sounds.
This is a pretty decent audience recording, and as such there is a good blend of the band playing and the audience enjoying the show. The band mixes are a little muddled, so this is nothing to put on your A-list shelf, but the audience is so exuberant and excited in their response and sing-along that I find myself getting swept away in it all. When the light is just right, I close my eyes and almost feel like I’m right there.
Tom Petty may never find the diehard fanship of The Beatles, Dylan or The Dead, but by continually writing good songs and putting on shows like this, he’s proven to be one of the most steady and long-lasting performers in rock and roll. Not a bad epitaph to have in the end.
It’s been an off week for weekly features around here at Brewster’s Millions. First I totally miss this week’s Random Shuffle (which I didn’t actually forget it, but put off the final edit for a day and then another and then it was so close to next week I figured I’d skip it entirely) and now it’s late Saturday afternoon and I’m just now writing Fresh Boots. You guys forgive me though, right?
I first heard of Lucy Kaplansky through the group Cry, Cry, Cry, which is kind of a neo-folks super-group Kaplansky formed with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell. They produced one album together, but it is a lovely thing and I’ve since gained interest in their solo projects.
Although that’s not exactly right, for I haven’t actually bought any of their solo albums, but continually think that I should. The good sir, Mark Saleski recently reviewed a Kaplansky album and sent me off to the Archive for this show. I’ve yet to give it a spin (how surprising I know) and look forward to hearing what this lovely voice can produce live.
Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Likewise a fellow writer recently reviewed a Robert Randolph album and remembering how much my brother-in-law loves this man I decided to hit up the Archive again.
I mostly know Randolph by association. Like I said my brother-in-law is very much a fan and has a few albums, and I have long enjoyed his turn with the Blind Boys in Alabama on their album, Higher Ground. I also caught him the other week on Austin City Limits and put on a spectacular show. This one came highly rated on the Archive so it should be a good showing.
August 24, 2005
Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA
Ben Folds has slowly grown on me over the years. I first heard of him through a friend of mine while I was living in Joplin, Missouri. She dug the crap out of his album Whatever And Amen, and often played it while we were driving around in her old Camaro. I dug the groove of “500 Angry Dwarves” and the rest of the album was alright while we were driving around together.
It was so alright that I got a copy of that album, but it never seemed as good listening to it by myself. Somehow being in that old sport racer with my friend made it sound better than it actually was. But it was interesting enough to keep Ben Folds in the back of my musical mind.
I thought of him again while reading 31 Songs by Nick Hornby. He talks about Folds ability as a lyricist and how writing a good story is nearly an extinct craft. Again I picked up a copy of Rockin the Suburbs, and again it didn’t really settle into me.
It was only a few months ago, whilst playing an .mp3 CD I had created at work that I truly begun to dig the Fold. Several songs from Rockin’ made it onto the disk and I realized how brilliant they were. A few more spins of the full album and I’m starting to chart myself as a fan.
With that in mind I downloaded this live show the other day. I’ve heard very good things about Folds live and look forward to listening to this.
Leo Kottke and Mike
November 15, 2002
Mississippi Nights, St. Louis, MO
The Leo Kottke sound has interested me for many years. An acquaintance in college loved the man and I would periodically hear his music coming out of his dorm room. It was intriguing but since we weren’t great friends, I never stayed to hear much more than a few songs. Over the years I’ve heard a few more but I’ve never really sat down and listened to the man in full.
Mike Gordon, of course, used to play for Phish and I’ve never managed to make myself a fan of that band. I’ve heard quite a bit of their work, and while I’d say they are all really talented musicians, as a whole I’ve never been able to get into their sound.
Kotke and Gordon apparently did quite a bit of touring together and the thought of this sixteen string acoustic master playing with a hippie bassist is incredibly intriguing. I’ve slipped through a few songs to get a feel for it, and it sounds absolutely fabulous.
Liberated Christmas Album
The Beatles recorded Christmas wishes for their fanclub every year and sent them out. This is a collection of every one of them. And each year it gets weirder and weirder. For the 1964 recording they sing a bit of a carol and then each of them take turns wishing everyone a happy holiday. By 1969 they started creating this incredibly odd version of A Christmas Carole that’s a bit science fiction and a bit Monty Python. I have to wonder what their fans must have though receiving these things in the mail each year.