Sunday, August 24, 2008

Winwood, Petty @ Outside Lands

I was dubious about Outside Lands Festival after hearing from a few friends that Friday night was one big zoo/cluster*&%# of getting from stage to stage (let alone arriving via Muni and over-taxed Taxis) that took away from the big draws for the evening, Beck and Radiohead (in the Outside Lands version of playing off-Broadway, I was playing at Velo Rouge Cafe at the same time). I was also little overwhelmed by the lingering traffic, SF fog and bout allergies on Saturday....but I'd already shelled out for a single-day ticket in anticipation of seeing both Steve Winwood and Tom Petty. And what a front row seat, err stand, can do for one's mood. I got to the 'Land's End' stage early enough to secure a great spot that, due to the pressing crowd, I didn't budge from for the next six hours. A convivial, music-drunk, and THC-enhanced bunch (many of whom weren't even born the first time I saw Petty play during his Hard Promises tour) made the show that much delightful. Winwood smoked it—on guitar, on keys, looking far younger than his years and playing with a supreme mastery that was mirrored by his excellent band. He came on strong, opening with "I'm a Man" from his Spencer Davis Group days, with doses from Traffic, and his solo work including his latest disc Nine Lives— but had to adhere to his one-hour set that left the masses booing. I was going to duck out of Ben Harper to see Regina Spektor (one of the few women artists on the weekend's bill) on another stage but thought better of moving from my great location because Petty was half the reason I bought a ticket in the first place. The past couple of times I've seen Harper, he's made me cry, and this was no different. That said, if Winwood made me swoon and Harper moved me with his passionate rage, Petty was pure goofy delight. He knows how to mine a vein of desire, angst and loss without losing the balm of pure, fun American rock and roll. Playing many songs from that long-ago show at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, including 'Refuge,' 'Even the Losers' and 'The Waiting,' as well as 'American Girl' and 'Honeybee,' we were all singing along, while he soaked it up, arms spread wide. After a five-minute break to cool down and/or fix the sound system (which had a couple of hiccups) we went that much more crazy when he brought Winwood back out for smoking, jam-packed 'Can't Find My Way Home' and 'Gimme Some Lovin' before continuing his own hit-packed set. Sweet. (rock and roll glow aside, one day was enough)

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