When I was twelve years old, some family friends (the Nevilles, to give credit where it’s due) gave me a tape for Christmas that contained the first music that ever really spoke to me, and when it spoke, it said, “This is what you’re going to listen to from here on out. You can throw away your Milli Vanilli tapes now.”
The tape was Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever,” and while it might be too much to label its acquisition as a life-changing event, getting that tape did enable me for the first time to have my own decent music without raiding my older sister Amy’s tape collection. Amy had a big-time salary from scooping ice cream at Friendly’s, so she could afford to fill her wall-mounted tape organizer, which would probably today qualify as an exhibit at the Smithsonian, with all the John Cougar Mellencamp and Beastie Boys albums she could get her sprinkle-covered (or jimmy-covered, if you must) hands on. Up until the Nevilles passed “Full Moon Fever” on to me, I had been a musical tapeworm, waiting for my host to try something new so that I could grab a little piece of it for myself.
So when my friends announced that they’d gotten extra tickets to the Tom Petty show at the Wachovia Center a couple weeks ago, my wife Kara and I jumped at the chance to go, even though the tickets cost enough that we could have purchased two barrels of oil or Bear Stearns instead.
To me, the coolest thing about a Tom Petty concert is the mix of people who show up; high school kids are represented in equal numbers with folks who can pull money out of their 401(k)s without penalty. Tom Petty himself will start collecting Social Security soon. I hope he buys himself something nice. In any event, it’s great to see a man who’s been cranking out albums for longer than Microsoft has been cranking out blue screens of death attracting a crowd full of kids who look like they should probably be home trading Pokémon cards.
The younger people in the crowd at the Wachovia Center could have learned a lot about concert-going by paying attention to the older folks, the seasoned veterans of getting the highest level of enjoyment out of such an event. For instance, a man in his fifties in the row directly behind me taught those around him an important lesson about how not to have your concert experience cut down in its prime. When a security guard confronts you during the show, shining a flashlight in your face and telling you to come with him, do NOT, under any circumstances, stop playing air guitar. I watched this guy repel security guards by wailing away on his invisible guitar for a solid fifteen minutes. It took them that long to figure out how to penetrate his force field of sheer awesomeness.
The younger folks also had a few tricks in their pockets. Did you know that etiquette now calls for holding up a lighted cell phone instead of a lighter when requesting an encore? Then if the request is denied, everyone can just listen to whoever has the best ringtone.
As always, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers put in a solid performance for the screaming audience, playing songs old and new to a crowd that seemed utterly oblivious to the fact that it wasn’t yet the weekend. And while many of his songs are older than the fans who love them, somehow, the aging process doesn’t appear to be affecting Tom Petty at all. He looks exactly the same now as he did fifteen years ago. At least from a hundred and fifty yards, he does. Meanwhile, Keith Richards looks like he’s been through whatever process they use on beef jerky.
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