Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - Into The Great Wide Open

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers played in the Saddledome on August 19th. Between this and Arcade Fire being in town literally one week earlier and X-Fest at the end of the month, it has been a pretty good month for music in Calgary.

Everyone knows Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a lot of good songs, but it really sinks in when you see them live and fifteen of the songs they play are classics where I knew every word, and the new songs they played were really quite good. Musicians like Tom Petty have a true workman’s approach to their music. They write good music consistently, tour frequently and during their live performances there is a no nonsense approach, they play through many songs and perform them flawlessly. The focus for many modern musicians is on theatrics, whereas bands like The Heartbreakers, a live concert is about the music they can perform. I appreciate the honesty and reality of, you know, actual music.

The nature of the Music In Review as I have constructed it, is that I typically try to select one song to write about as to really dig deep into the cultural, historical, emotional, or artistic qualities of that piece, but sometimes it is very difficult to pinpoint one individual song to talk about. As stated a moment ago Tom Petty has so many equally good songs, that no one in particularly really stands out, at least to me. However during the concert on the nineteenth Mr. Petty said a few things before playing “Into the Great Wide Open,” that really made me think.

The first thing he said was “this song came out in 1991” to which the crowd cheered and Petty responded with a chuckle and said “I’m glad that was such a good year for you.” Honestly? 1991 was not a good year for me. Granted I was only eight years old back then, but I do not remember that year all together fondly, at least not musically. Maybe I was too young to appreciate some of good music at that time, or maybe I just was not exposed to it, but for the most part I remember the entire decade of the nineties as being a low point in musical creativity. Having said all that, at least we had Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers making great music at that time.

Next Petty went on to talk about living in California and how everyday he would see some new kid arrive off a bus with a guitar and how so many came but so few made it. This meant something to me. Like most young boys with long hair I had dreams of being a rock star, but things did not play out that way. I have always taken cool comfort in being a fan and not an artist, for the world always needs more fans then artists, and in a much less significant and direct way I am doing my part for cultural growth of our shared civilization, but still it stings, somewhere deep down, knowing I am one of the many who will not make it, at least not that way.

It can be weird how personal songs can be, and weirder still what sort of ideas surface depending on our personality. “Into The Great Wide Open” like so many Tom Petty songs is about the good feelings of good music, and the general narrative this time around is about a young couple realizing their dreams as they wander forward in life and musical rock stardom. It is a happy song, as it is a song about the kid with a guitar who does make it, one of the few in question, but the mere mention of those thousands that fail made me reflect differently about the song then I had previously. The dream is over for me, more or less, but not entirely, there is still a glimmer of hope that something else I have invested a great amount of artistic effort towards might eventually come to promise, and maybe then one day I will fall into the great wide open, or whatever that might mean for me. When I, or anyone else, think like this, the song sort of becomes our own, as though a small part of us is present somewhere within the song itself. Following that logic there is very big piece of Mr. Petty within “Into The Great Wide Open,” and whatever I feel is only a fraction of what he represents.

It must be nice being a rock star.

I wonder how much of “Into The Great Wide Open” is autobiographical to Petty, or perhaps one of the Heartbreakers. The story is generic enough to be about just about anybody, and therein lays the classic charm of art; just about everyone can relate too, or desire to be like, the kid in “Into The Great Wide Open.”

I don’t know I’m just rambling.

I wanted to say something special about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers but there is little to add to what everyone already knows. They are a very good band that writes consistently good music, and have been doing so for an impressively long time. They are honest, down to earth, and relatable. They put on a good show in Calgary and I am glad I saw it. I have no new insights to offer, only my respect.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

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