Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mudcrutch Rocks the House in Santa Cruz

I'm up early 'cause I just couldn't sleep, and the song running through my head at top volume is I Don't Scare Easy - the first single from the re-formed Mudcrutch, who we saw last night at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

Who's Mudcrutch, you ask? They were a band from Gainesville, Florida, in the early '70s, who came out to Los Angeles seeking fame and fortune, then promptly broke up just as they got a record deal. The remains of the band met up with some other old Florida friends and started recording under the name "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers." TP & company have had a few hits over the years, but the legend of Mudcrutch has lived on.

This past year, after a 35 year break, members of the original Mudcrutch reunited and finally recorded that first album (to be released shortly) and have set out on a two-week "World Tour" that goes all the way from Malibu to San Francisco, then down through Santa Barbara to inland of San Diego, and finally winds up with a week at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Okay, so maybe a short trip up and down the California coast doesn't sound like much of a world tour, but the t-shirt I bought says it's a world tour, so I'm sticking to that story.

So, who's in the band: Tom Petty (bass, vocals), Tom Leadon (guitar, vocals), Mike Campbell (guitar, mandolin), Benmont Tench (keyboards, vocals), and Randall Marsh (drums).

Tom Petty is certainly still the star of the show, but this is NOT a Heartbreakers tour, and TP shares songwriting and lead vocal duties with his bandmates quite handily. Most prominent among those singing-writing bandmates is Tom Leadon, who also challenges Heartbreaker extraordinaire, Mike Campbell, for dominance on lead guitar. Mike and Tom (L) traded licks throughout the evening to the crowds delight.

Mudcrutch took to the stage at 8:15, without any opening act to warm up the crowd (wasn't needed), and went right into Shady Grove, the new CD's opening track. The 90 minute (plus) seemed to take us through the entire disc, including Orphan Of The Storm, Six Days On The Road, This Is A Good Street (featuring Benmont Tench), The Wrong Thing To Do, Queen Of The Go-Go Girls, Topanga Cowgirl, Bootleg Flyer, Lover Of The Bayou, June Apple, the previously mentioned Scare Easy,and TP's latest masterpiece, Crystal River, which featured some of Mike Campbell's best guitar work.

A couple of those songs might be familiar to you as old country or bluegrass standards, but they all rocked the house. Mudcrutch filled out the set with some of the other favorites they used to perform on the Gainesville bar scene 35+ years ago, including a couple of excellent Dylan covers, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine, and the show's finale, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 ("everybody must get stoned"). Encores included a classic version of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues to rival the Who's famous cover.

And, yeah, you didn't hear me listing American Girl or Free Fallin' or any other Tom Petty and/or the Heartbreakers songs. And, believe me, they were not missed. Mudcrutch is a different animal than the Heartbreakers and to hear those songs would have been out-of-place and awkward, even if three out of five musicians are the same. I'm sure the show promoters would have preferred those songs be included, and that the show were listed as "Tom Petty and Mudcrutch" but the correct decision was to leave the last 35 years out.

I've been a fan of Tom Petty pretty much from the start of his recording career, and have seen him in concert many times before (including the best show ever: Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and the Heartbreakers). But this was one of the best shows yet. Seeing him not as rock-star/headliner, but as the greatest bar band from Florida, just having fun and rocking out in a smaller venue (the Santa Cruz Civic is smaller than most High School gymnasiums), brought back the magic, power, and immediacy of what American Rock and Roll is all about.

Official Mudcrutch site: www.mudcrutchmusic.com
Tour & CD info & short article about reunion
Tom Leadon bio on wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment

Twitter Feed