Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Jam Out at Bonnaroo
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform in Manchester, Tennesse.
Even though Bonnaroo has broadened its base over the years, the festival – which wrapped up last night in Manchester, Tennessee – has maintained a tradition of slotting jam-band headliners to close things out on the main-stage. Not last night, though, when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — masters of the three-minute pop song — reprised their role as 'Roo headliners, having first played the festival in 2006 on a Friday night.
On the heels of their recent set of theater residencies in L.A. and New York, the band eschewed tried-and-true hits like "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "Free Fallin'" in favor of deep cuts and covers from the furthest reaches of their vast catalog. At first, it seemed that the band may have jumped on Bonnaroo as Sunday night headliners so they could stretch out and jam for the masses – or at least, it did until Petty said, "I predict we're going to have an incredible time tonight. I don't have to be anywhere for hours!" before kicking into "Free Fallin.'"
That blockbuster single joined other obligatory live staples like "Learning to Fly," "Refugee" and "Running Down a Dream" that were still highlighted throughout the show. However, the band did match 'em with unexpected album cuts ("Rebels," "Good Enough") and covers ("Baby, Please Don't Go," "Friend of the Devil"), appearing far more engaged in the process.
The Bonnaroo jam crowd (i.e. the festivalgoers with little concern for leaving early to beat traffic, open-minded music lovers who routinely abide Phish's AC/DC and Ween covers) would've let Petty and co. get away with omitting "Free Fallin'" and a few other overplayed workhorses. The crowd actually seemed to respond best to things like Mike Campbell's guitar fireworks during an extended, blues jam mega-climax on the otherwise drowsy Wildflowers single "It's Good to be King," a centerpiece highlight of last night's show.
Perhaps in indication that the festival's demographic is skewing evermore younger, hip-hop heatseekers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar — who appeared back-to-back on the What Stage hours before Petty — garnered the biggest crowd reactions of all yesterday.
For Macklemore, the What Stage — where, impressively, the rapper made his Bonnaroo debut — was a proving ground, not just to establish he's more than a flash-in-the-pan with a novelty hit (the ubiquitous, awesome "Thrift Shop") but that he has the makings of a genuine superstar. He did it, taking the massive crowd in the palm of his hand and communicating directly with them.
"Of all the festivals, the people of Bonnaroo have incredible style," the rapper said, asking a fan to crowd-surf their fur coat to the stage. "I have always wanted to try on a Tennessee bobcat!" Relentlessly and effectively, the rapper got the crowd under his every command. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are nothing if not original, writing their quirky hip-hop free of machismo, and no moment was more poignant than the group's performance of its soulful anthem in support of same-sex marriage, "Same Love."
"I believe we are in the biggest civil rights fight of our generation," Macklemore said while introducing the song. The crowd made their agreement abundantly clear when the rapper implored them to point a single index finger up in the air if they supported equality. "That's the most ones we've ever seen at one of our shows and that's a beautiful thing," he concluded.