|ALL PHOTOS BY JASON GONULSEN|
The memories come easy.
There’s Tom Petty, dressed as The Mad Hatter in the video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” I watched it so many times on MTV. That one always seems to come first, for whatever reason.
But there’s another one I think about often. 1995, my childhood living room. WGN was on the TV, and it was Michael Jordan’s first home game since his brief “retirement.” I had all but given up hope he wasn’t gone for good, but he returned, eventually winning three more NBA titles. A video played before the game, showing Jordan’s highlights of the first “3-Peat,” and the song it featured was “The Waiting” by Tom Petty.
I knew the song, but not like this. Not as the soundtrack to Jordan’s comeback. It’s funny how things stick with you after all these years.
Tom Petty is still here.
I had regrettably missed his show in St. Louis, but as luck would have it, I would be passing through Kansas City at precisely the moment he was to play the Sprint Center. So I went. You grant me a photo pass to see a living legend, and I’m going every time. I live once.
His current tour is with The Heartbreakers, and they’re celebrating 40 years together since the release of their self-titled debut album in November of 1976. That album begins with “Rockin’ Around (With You),” and so did the show in Kansas City. It was an appetizer of sorts. The next two songs were “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” How’s that to start a show?
“You Got Lucky'” was the fifth song. “I Won’t Back Down” was the sixth. “Free Fallin'” was the seventh. How many bands would give anything to have just one of those? Just one.
Petty has so many, he had to cut a few from the set list, including “The Waiting.” Before “Walls,” he told the audience, “We had a request for this one…actually, it was from me.”
By his side is Mike Campbell, the underrated guitarist who doesn’t seek flash. But he’s always there. Petty recalled the time when the two met in Florida, and something didn’t seem right. He quickly thought of every excuse to leave. “Good thing I stuck around,” Petty said.
Good thing indeed.
This was a “greatest hits” type show, but it still made room for songs like “Wildflowers,” “It’s Good To Be King,” and “Crawling Back To You,” three songs from Wildflowers, an album I grew up with. To hear those songs live meant everything, as much as hearing “American Girl” close the show meant everything to everyone else.
And that’s how a great concert should be: thousands getting their moment to relive a time from long ago. On this night, there were too many to count.
If this tour is meant to be a victory lap, please, let it have an encore.
Until then, I’ll be waiting