Still Rocking After All These Years

Scratch one from the bucket list. Not that I actually have a bucket list.

I missed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers the last time they were in Ottawa, 36 year ago. I don’t know why it took so long for them to return when the 2017 RBC‎ Ottawa Bluesfest schedule was announced, with Petty as the closing act, I knew that was one I could not miss.

tompetty crowd 2017_credit_Steve Gerecke

The crowd watching Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing at RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 16, 2017.  ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Steve Gerecke.

He’s been around for more than 40 years, and I liked his music from the beginning, but I still have difficulty articulating just what it is that draws me to the band. I can’t figure out if it is the guitar sound, Petty’s voice or the songwriting. All I know is that the music strikes a chord in my soul. He’s a storyteller, though admittedly sometimes the stories the songs tell don’t always make sense if you pay attention to lyrics.

With thunderstorms in the forecast I still headed out in plenty of time to catch the set. I figured that while the weather might dampen my enthusiasm, it wouldn’t squelch it completely. I’ve been to shows in the driving rain before; if you like the music you can put up with anything. And indeed, it rained pretty much throughout the show, albeit a gentle rain that wasn’t enough to really get wet.

Tom Petty

Tom Petty performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 16, 2017. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard as one of the most successful music events in North America. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton

I don’t know that I can give you an objective review of the show. With more than 40 years of records to draw on, it was a foregone conclusion that some favourites would have to be omitted. With the set scheduled for two hours, there wasn’t enough time to play all the hits, let alone any more obscure tracks that might be favourites.

The crowd was pumped, the band tight and the evening flowed, why don’t we leave it at that. Having waited so long to see Tom Petty it would have had to be a really bad show to be less than enjoyable. It was basically what I expected, no more and no less.

The concert got me thinking though about the nature of music and why we are drawn to certain types/genres and certain artists. My wife informed me decades ago that she dislikes country music. However, when I have exposed her to certain country artists she has enjoyed the shows. Is that the difference between live and studio recordings? Something to do with the company at the show? Or a sign her tastes changed with age?

Tom Petty

Tom Petty performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 16, 2017. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard as one of the most successful music events in North America. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton

There are groups you would have to pay me to go see. I would never buy their records. Some of these artists sell millions of copies of their recordings and sell out stadiums. What do others see in them that I can’t?

From an economic perspective I guess it is a good thing that we have such divergent taste. What if we all liked the same thing and nothing else? Imagine a world where there was only one musical performer, beloved by all perhaps but still only one. I think that would be boring.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked Bluesfest last Sunday night. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.

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