Nate and I looked for months at the two unsightly pieces of paper pinned to our 'fridge. For nearly six months we ensured that those two pieces of recycled paper saw no spills, spindles or tears. The "e-tickets" were our passport to Petty greatness. After we arrived at the Palace (about 1.5 hours early) we found premium spots. Upon entrance we were notified that our tickets in section 203 were to be upgraded, so we waited for a few minutes and procured seats in section 113, which had a fabulous view of stage right.
The Drive-By Truckers were the most prompt opening band I have ever seen. In fact, they started at 7:29, which is nearly unheard of in concert-land. (Early?!) Nate and I caught the DBTs at the Magic Stick in Detroit in 2004 as one of our first dates, so they hold a special place in our hearts. The set was, in a word, solid and you can tell they love their songs and love performing. A lot of songs came off of their newest CD, Big To-Do, but also included songs from their entire catalog.
Their bluesy-funk-infused rock makes you want to drink beers, shoot pool, find your best gal and make some sweet love... so to speak. They didn't do more than one or two throwbacks and then they didn't hit much of the Jason Isbel tunes that we know the best (seeing as he's not in the band any longer). That was a bit of a disappointment, but the rest of the songs did not cease to amaze. Considering DBTs put out a new disc nearly every year, we're a couple behind and could stand to get caught up. (Now taking donations.)
Immediately after the DBTs left the stage and hit the "back stage" dividing line, folks at the Palace decided it was a good idea to whip out the ugly lights. BAM! Lights go on and roadies start a'scrambling. As assaulting as it was to my senses, I give them credit. The process only took a half-hour before the lights went black and the crowd ramped up for Impending Greatness. The Heartbreakers took the stage and as the lights came up, Tom Petty was in the middle, bowing to a standing ovation. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers didn't waste time getting down with the hits, either. The first five songs were plucked lovingly from their Greatest Hits and the crowd went nuts. I couldn't stop from sitting there and smiling at the stage with a little, goofy grin on my face. "I'm finally seeing the band I like best... and they ROCK!"
In fact, Tom knew he rocked and he was so infused into his show business that he sauntered, posed, "conducted," and moved precisely because he knew the audience would eat it up. Each pose brought with it a chorus of "Woooo!" that worked its way back into the enthusiasm of the band on stage. “We’re in a city that likes to rock, so how ‘bout we play some rock music, ok?” Okay, Mr. Petty. He could've told me to eat worms and I would've contemplated it, as long as they were rock 'n roll worms.
Nate sang along beside me and I kept on with the awkward grin. Occasionally I shut my eyes to get away from the wannabe pot smokers in front of us and the drunk college kids behind us, shouting, "TP! TP! I love you! Oh my gosh, he looked at me, he looked at me!" (To which his friend replied, "Yeah, Dave, next he's going to say, 'This next song is for my buddy Dave up there', I just know it. Douche." I appreciated Dave's friend.) Despite the same three people doing alternating beer and bathroom runs for two hours and the constant stand up-sit down (or rather slide out-stand up-sit down, as the Palace seats have cup holders and are too damned small for my ass), I was still sitting on a cloud somewhere in Happy Town.
The band had to play new tunes, of course. Like seasoned rockstar vets, they sandwiched the "new stuff" in between sets of "old stuff," and that right wisely. Admittedly, many people used the new tunes from their album Mojo as apt bathroom break time, but Tom and his fellows understand that to get to the next set of "songs you know," you need to make it through the ones you probably don't. (Moms and Toms everywhere are saying, "Try it! You might like it!") Nate and I were impressed with the uber-blues infusion of the new songs. A free dowload of Mojo was included with the tickets, so I brushed up a bit before we went to the concert, but we were essentially a Mojo virgin before we got there. Mojo is just plain funky and we can get down with that. Somehow I felt that I heard a hint of the old Traveling Wilburys spirit flowing through, but with a 2010 freshness about it that made it 100% Heartbreakers. Mike Campbell (lead guitar) had just come back from "recouping," and both his licks and his excitement were infectious.
The Heartbreakers finished their set with several oldies-but-goodies that had the crowd going nuts yet again. Nate and I agreed that their stage rendition of Don't Come Around Here No More from album Southern Accents was probably the coolest, tightest rendition we had ever heard. After leaving the stage and being cheered back on for an encore, they hit it with Runnin' Down a Dream and American Girl, resulting in (what else?) ecstatic applause, chants, and sing-a-long en masse. (Click for full set list.)
Our ears hurt, but it was worth it. We left the parking lot and took the long way home just to enjoy the musical afterglow. Thanks to Drive-By Truckers, Tom and the band (and the crews, both the road and Detroit) for a fabulous evening. It was worth every penny... and decibel.
(Official Detroit concert recap from TP site.)