Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - June 30, 1999

Summertime, 1999. I was on my way to the PNC Bank Arts Center with my best friend Tommy to experience Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers live for the first time ever. Since I had an extra ticket and invited Tommy to be my guest, he drove. At his insistence, we did not leave as early as I recommended. He kept reassuring me that everything was going to be fine and we would not be late. I kept telling him that we were going to hit severe traffic on the parkway and miss part of the show. He countered with the fact that there was an opening act (that neither of us wanted to see) and we would arrive in time. He was driving and knew what he was doing. Famous. Last. Words.

Sure enough, we hit the parkway and about 10 miles away from the venue we slammed into a wall of non-moving, bumper-to-bumper traffic. I can’t recall sitting in a more sever traffic jam. With the car stopped and practically in the park position, I glared at Tommy.

“What?” was his dull response.

He knew damn well what. We were going to be late for the concert because he didn’t listen.

“We’re fine,” he said as I continued my stare of aggravation.

We weren’t fine. The concert was scheduled to begin at 8:00 PM. We finally parked the car at 8:45 PM. Not only had we missed the opening act, we missed the start of Tom Petty’s set. I could hear the music playing as soon as we parked the car. While Tommy insisted it was still the opening act, I knew he was wrong and told him as much. His decision to leave later than recommended had cost us the start of the concert. It was the first and only concert that I ever missed the opening song to.

As we dashed to get into the center, we both had full bladders and therefore would have to miss more of the concert as we headed to the men’s room instead of our lawn seats. The end of Running Down A Dream played out as we proceeded to the urinals. I was not happy at all and still couldn’t believe I missed the start of the concert.

While standing in the bathroom line, my all time favorite Tom Petty song started. Breakdown rang out through the ampitheater and into the men’s room. I glared at Tommy again. There’s nothing like listening to your favorite song in the bathroom at a concert. I relieved myself, washed up, and headed out of the men’s room, singing Breakdown along with the rest of the crowd. Tommy and I finally made our way to the lawn and found our seats during Swinging.

Of course, by that time, the lawn was jam packed. We found a nice spot at the top as far away from the stage as possible and settled in for the rest of the show. Soon all of the troubles of being late and missing songs would be forgotten as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers would take over the rest of the night.

Classic songs were mixed in with cuts from the new disc (Echo), which was a CD that I loved. As my first (and so far, only) Tom Petty experience, it was amazing. You Don’t Know How It Feels, Don’t Come Around Here No More, Don’t Do Me Like That, and American Girl, were just some of the highlights from this brilliant performance.

As he also does with his music videos and website, Tom had an elaborate stage setting with several light changes that reflected different images dancing across the floor. From our vantage point way up high, the stage was hard to see (so was the band), but I could tell that there was a lot of psychedelic stuff happening.

In concert, Tom and the boys sounded as great as they do on record. Note perfect, exceptional timing, and Tom’s vocals were superb. The tour had not put a strain on his vocal chords or his spirits. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came to PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, and conquered us all.

To this day I am still disappointed that I missed the beginning of the show, but I don’t dwell on it. And I never pass up an opportunity to razz Tommy about it, especially if a Tom Petty song comes on while we’re hanging out. Hey, what are friends for?

Jammin’ Me (completely missed this one)
Runnin’ Down A Dream (heard the end while rushing up the hill)
Breakdown (heard it in the men’s room)
Don’t Do Me Like That
I Don’t Wanna Fight
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
I Won’t Back Down
Listen To Her Heart
It’s Good To Be King
You Don’t Know How It Feels
Rhino Skin
Don’t Come Around Here No More
Room At The Top
You Got Lucky
Free Girl Now
American Girl
You Wreck Me
Free Fallin’
Learning To Fly

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