Monday, June 28, 2010

Petty Grievances

Saw Tom Petty at Summerfest in Milwaukee (link above) Saturday night.  Awesome performance, if a little short (about an hour and a half), and shallow.  Shallow?  Yeah, while Petty may put everything up there on stage, heart on his sleeve, really one of the great rock and roll journeymen... this show was pretty much just the greatest hits.  I hadn't realized how many Petty songs were so darn easy to sing along to.

And yet, much of the audience failed at at that.  (New Lyrics to "Drunk Girls" lcd soundsystem: "Drunk Girls -- don't care if they're in tune, Drunk girls -- just shout it louder").  Y'know, I paid over $100 for the two of us to hear a professional musician (on the lawn -- Pavilion seats were about three times that), not 10,000 fans.  Shut the hell up.

So it was nice to hear the few items that weren't on Top 40 radio: "King's Highway"  was about the only deep track we got.  A very nice cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" -- which did get the singalong treatment -- showed off Mike Campbell's awesome guitar chops (he should have been at the Crossroads Festival). That song seemed a perfect Heartbreakers tune... and I realized why: "I Should Have Known Better" off the new album "Mojo" is pretty much the same sort of short-lyric-then-screaming-guitar song.  They should have put them up against each other, instead of about 20 minutes apart.

(oh, before I forget: Petty's stage has awesome pillars of plasma screens which show graphics or the band at various times.  just terrific)

But really, I liked the peformance.  What I want to whine about today is the venue: sound is OK (a little echo-y out on the lawn), sight lines aren't bad... but two major issues: The Marcus Amphitheater is praised for its steep hillside allowing clear view.  That's fine except that (a) nobody sits, and standing at a 40-degree angle for several hours isn't much fun, and (b) if you do sit, you're going sledding on your blanket down the hill.  The capper to the annoyances though, is that Wisconsin isn't as much of a nanny state as Illinois: you can smoke there.  And people do. Constantly. I'm really just about ready to test if spitting on people is just as legal as the actions of those who pour their smoke over me.

My run of great opening acts ran short that night:  ZZ Top was pretty unexiting.  Just before the performance began, the PA was playing a live ZZ Top performance... I couldn't tell the difference in sound.  No spontenaity, no extended jams.  The songs were synched to clips from movies and their '80s videos, so there's no room for hanging loose.  Except for really bluesing up "Jesus Left Chicago", it was pretty dull.

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