My first concert was B.B. King. I was too young to remember or appreciate the genius I witnessed that night. My second concert, though, I was old enough to know and appreciate the genius that was Tom Petty.
The concert was in support of the “Wildflowers” album, a record that I would truly appreciate more when I was a little older in high school. It was also an album I listened to when my marriage fell apart. Anyone who says music doesn’t soothe the soul has no heart. Because Petty’s lyrics and music was there for me during the highs and lows in life, songs resonated and helped during the good times and bad. And for that, I will forever appreciate Petty.
Now, the concert was in 1995. I was 14 and was actually going to a rock concert. My first rock concert with my dad and uncle. And it was amazing. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers blew my mind that night. I also remember the Target Center smelled like skunk farts that evening, something I have noticed at every concert I’ve been to since.
I don’t remember all the songs performed, but I do remember being jazzed by the experience and it ended with a cover of Them’s “Gloria.” It is pretty amazing to think of all the hit songs that man wrote, and seeing those songs performed live was one of those “I want to start a band” experiences. Sure, I played guitar (I even know how to play a couple of Petty’s songs), and over the years my friends and I tried to start bands, but were too unorganized to actually ever get anything going. Also, we are better at being snarky at one another more than we are at working with one another. It wasn’t our calling I guess.
I’ve seen Petty two more times after that. One time in Milwaukee, Wis. in 2001 on the Fourth of July. I won’t go into details of that whole trip because I wish to remain employed, but the show was phenomenal. They played an extended version of “It’s Good To Be King” that will forever burn in my memory. Also, I saw a drunk guy in an American flag T-shirt scream “Play ‘American Girl!’” for 15 minutes straight, then proceeded to vomit all over himself and pass out, which is an image that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The last time I saw him was in 2006. Pearl Jam opened for Petty and his Heartbreakers. Pearl Jam did a cover of “I Won’t Back Down,” which is my favorite Petty song. Then Eddie Vedder came out for Petty’s encore of “American Girl,” which was really cool. Even though every time I hear that song, I remember that drunk guy from Wisconsin in 2001…
Petty passed away Monday, and I am saddened by this. From middle school to today, Petty’s music has been a part of my life. That time period is now considered “most of my life.” I have a flood of great memories connected to life experiences with Petty’s music acting as a soundtrack. Rest in Peace, Mr. Petty. You belong to the wildflowers now.