Aplscruf's Music, Art, and Literature Blog

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers May 12, 2001

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The Gorge Amphitheatre
George, WA
With guest opener The Wallflowers
Saturday, May 12, 2001

Ahhh, the Gorge season has begun.  What a grand way to start the season of concerts with no other than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!

We saw Tom at the Gorge in back 1995 with our friends from Sunnyside.  Little did I know I was pregnant with our son at the time.  We had so much fun, but it was a bit cold.  It was also the Gorge season opener in early May.  I enjoyed every minute and refused to leave until he was finished with the last song.  When the tickets went on sale this time, I had to go.  We missed his Echo tour two years ago because we already purchased tickets to Mellencamp and had other things planned for the summer [what was I thinking??].  P called me at work and told me he got Row 25.  That was so nice of him; he doesn’t even like going to concerts, so I was really surprised.  We got the same row we were in last time.

The day of the concert, May 12, was a very busy day.  We first had to go to our son’s t-ball game.  I opted to stay home and pack; we weren’t very organized the night before.  I was ready to go as soon as the boys came back from the game.  It was nice and sunny outside.  P said it would be hot in Eastern Washington, but I decided to wear jeans and take shorts, just in case.  I knew how cold-blooded I could be.  I managed to pack several layers of clothing into a large backpack.

We grabbed a bite and headed to our first stop, Cle Elum.  We spent some time visiting with P’s folks.  They wanted to cook us dinner, but we needed to head down the road.  We knew the lines would be long to get into the Gorge.  We also needed the freedom of being alone, if only for a few hours.  We kissed the boy goodbye and headed East.

There is only one road in and only one big place to park: on a hay-field above the amphitheatre.  As we were driving East to Vantage, we noticed the temperature gauge was going up and up.  Eighty-six, eighty-seven…ninety degrees!  I couldn’t believe it.  We opened the sunroof and enjoyed the heat for a little while, then blasted the air conditioning.  We passed an RV with a sign in the window that said, “Petty Bound.”  I started getting really excited then!

We got to within a mile of the parking area and stopped in a huge traffic jam.  No one was moving.  We sat there for probably 20 minutes, then suddenly everyone moved along at a fast pace.  They must have let in a certain number of vehicles and waited for them to park before letting the next group in.  Anyway, we were happy to be moving and finally parked.  They hay was about 6 inches tall, so I made sure to take a hay fever pill before my arrival.  We packed some water in the backpack, and off we went to enjoy our evening.

Tom Petty music was blasting from the tailgate parties all along our walk.  We had to walk probably a quarter-mile to the ticket corral.  I call it a corral because everyone feels like cattle there.  Twenty thousand people have to fit through narrow ticket gates and then move down narrow walkways to the seating area below.

Finally, we arrived inside the bowl.  We first decided to grab a beer, since we were about 2 hours early.  In the beer line, some guy yelled, “Dude, the Double-Double is fu#&in’ awesome!”  He saw that P had an In-N-Out burger t-shirt on that he purchased in California.  The guy apologized for swearing, but went on to say how much he loved In-N-Out burgers.  We laughed and agreed they were the best.  We then paid $12.00 for two Pyramid ales, only to realize they came in smaller cups than the cheaper Coors beer!

We sat on the sloping lawn and watched the people.  There were about six decades of people there.  I saw ten-year-olds with their parents, teenagers, college students, 30-somethings like us, on up to 60-ish.  We saw the rare 60’s dudes: long, gray-haired, burnt out hippie-types, with tie-died shirts, pot bellies (and heads) with skinny legs and arms.  Only a few remaining, we figured.  We saw many a man who should not be shirtless.  Most tried to suck in their guts, which only made them look even more ridiculous, as it made their man-breasts stick out farther and their butts protrude.  Women were equally revealing and not in an attractive way.  It was so hot, though, no one seemed to care.

P went back for another round of beer and food.  I wasn’t really hungry, just hot.  I kept guzzling my water so I wouldn’t get dehydrated.  We hit the Honey Buckets before going down to our seats to catch The Wallflowers.

We timed it just right; we moved forward to the front of the stage just as Jakob Dylan walked on.  It was exciting to see him up close.  We then sauntered over to our 25th row.  Unfortunately, we were right in the middle of the row, which meant getting out to go to the bathroom was going to be a chore.  On our way to our row, P was again accosted because of his shirt.  The man yelled, “You mean, you went all the way to California and you didn’t bring me one (meaning a burger) back?”  I thought he was going to hit P from the look on his face!  Then P made the mistake of teasing him by saying, “Well, there’s always Dick’s (a local burger joint).”  Offended, the man yelled,  “Don’t even make that comparison!  Dick’s will never come close to In-N-Out!  They’re the best hamburgers I’ve ever had!”  We laughed, agreed, and moved on toward our seats.

We sat while The Wallflowers ran through a short set, mostly off their first album, Bringing Down the Horse and a couple of songs off their new album, Breach.  Favorite songs included: “Sixth Avenue Heartache,” “Three Marlenas,” and “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls,” and he also covered David Bowie’s “Heroes,” which I believe he recorded for a movie soundtrack.  I enjoyed his version of that song; it sounded great on the big stage.  I felt kind of sorry for Jakob, though, because when he came on stage at 7:00 sharp, hardly anyone was in the reserved section, and there were hundreds of people milling around in the general admission/lawn seating area.  Finally, more people showed up and sat down.  He then said, “I can’t believe you guys drove all this way only to sit down at the concert.  You make me feel bad!  Please, stand up!”  So, most people got off their butts and stood.  I didn’t really want to stand, because I knew I would be standing through the entire length of Tom’s show.  We did, though, and enjoyed the music.

As soon as The Wallflowers’ set was over, we made the decision to hit the buckets once more.  We had to plow through the mess of people in our row to get to the hill.  We ended up back in the beer garden where the lines weren’t so long, and got back to our seats about 10 minutes before the lights dimmed.  There was a low roar, then an explosive cheer as Tom and the Heartbreakers entered from the right.

They immediately picked up their instruments and dove right into “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” from the Full Moon Fever album.  This got everyone on their feet.  He kept the pace going with “I Won’t Back Down,” and everyone sang along.  It was so much fun; of course, all the die-hard Petty fans knew all the words.  Then he played “Breakdown,” and he ad-libbed as the audience clapped along.  “Billy the Kid” from Echo was next.  He surprised me by playing two songs from Damn the Torpedoes:  “Here Comes My Girl” and “Even the Losers,” two of my absolute favorite songs.

The set list also included: Too Much Ain’t Enough/It’s Good to be King/You Don’t Know How it Feels/Guitar Boogie Shuffle/Don’t Come Around Here/Red Rooster/Swingin’ Doors/Walls- from the movie, She’s the One/Mary Jane’s Last Dance/You Wreck Me

He was supposed to do some new songs for an upcoming album, but instead he played an old rockabilly number that Tom said he found in one of the Heartbreakers’ garage entitled “Guitar Boogie.”  He also did a country number from Merle Haggard that sounded great.  He did a blues song, really showing their range of genres.
The encore included “Free Fallin’” and another fan fave, “American Girl.”

What can I say, Tom is awesome.  His show was high-energy entertainment.  Everyone knew the words, everyone sang along or clapped, sending energy right back to the stage.  Tom wore a bright blue jacket with brocaded pearls and sequins that sparkled in the lights. He had to remove that from the heat just a couple of songs into the set.  He had on a black vest with a long-sleeved, white, loose-fitting shirt and an old-fashioned striped tie, that was tied loosely at his neck.  He had faded blue jeans and old suede tennis shoes.  His hair was shorter than that on a recent VH-1 show, about chin length.  He sported a beard, which actually looked good on him, except it is almost all white now. The other guys looked ok, but also looked a little old and tired by the end of the night.  I don’t think Mike Campbell cracked a smile all night.  Tom did, though.  He kept stopping and thanking us for being there, told us he has the best band backing him up-they’d been together 25 years (I felt really old), and even at the end said, “God bless you!”  He just seemed so excited and energized by the crowd.  He was really good about talking and playing to all parts of the audience, left right, and even shined the lights on the crowd up in the lawn.  He said to them, “Hey, has anyone up there fallen in love tonight?”

I will see Tom again, some day.

September 5, 2010 Posted by | 2001, Jakob Dylan, Music, The Gorge Amphitheatre, The Wallflowers, Tom Petty | , , , , | Leave a comment