The Return of Mudcrutch

Tom Petty went back to his roots last night. So did I. I’ve been attending shows at the Civic since 1978, but somehow always missed Petty and the Heartbreakers when they played there. (While chatting in line with a younger Petty fan before the show, I tried to recap all the folks I’ve seen in that building. I managed to recollect evenings with everyone from ACDC, The Ramones, Motorhead, and Devo…to Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, and Nanci Griffith.)

And so now I’ve *finally* seen Petty at the Civic: On Monday evening, Petty and his pre-Heartbreakers band, Mudcrutch, played the second stop of a short, two-week tour. I think we both had a good night.

After opening with an electrified cover of “Shady Grove”, Petty confirmed that, “If you’re looking for some old hippie music, you came to the right place” and went into a great new country ballad called “Orphan of the Storm”. This reunion features Petty’s current bandmates Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell (who merged into the Heartbreakers with Petty), along with the other original Mudcrutch members Randall Marsh and Tom Leadon, who last night frequently played twin lead guitar with Campbell.

They spent two hours playing their new “LP” (as Petty called it) and filled the rest with an eclectic collection of covers, running through Dylan, Bill Monroe, Jerry Lee Lewis, and old country standards like “Six Days on the Road” and “Love Please Come Home”. Though chatty and obviously having as much fun as the audience was, Petty took a sidestage approach, frequently turning over the show to the twin lead guitars of Campbell and Leadon, sharing lead vocals with Leadon and Tench, and forgoing guitar to work as the bass player in this resurrected band.

Mudcrutch at the Santa Cruz Civic

Let’s hope this turns into more than a two-week stint.

I’ve been a Petty fan since I was old enough to buy records. (Yes, I intentionally linked “records” to a wiki so you younger folks can catch up). I even recorded a cover of “Running Down a Dream on my first CD, gladly paying the $15.16 royalties to both Petty and Campbell.

For me, being able to see Petty and company in a venue small enough where I wasn’t just watching a TV screen was pretty darned exciting.

The crowd was great last night – which doesn’t always happen – and it was a great mix of younger and older folk. (As my wife said, “someone from our era is still popular”.) And while some things have changed – cell phones have replaced waving lighters during the night – not everything has. When Mudcrutch closed with a rockin’ version of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (better known as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”), and the spotlights cut through the smoke in the Santa Cruz Civic, it definitely smelled like 1978. 😉

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