This was our second occasion seeing Coldplay for this tour. After the color and the joy we experienced at the first concert, it was super easy to say yes to a second show. During this time, Levi’s Stadium and the San Francisco 49ers football club were experiencing a strained relationship with the city of Santa Clara. A weeknight 10pm noise curfew was in place and it was a sore spot for many touring acts. Ed Sheeran cancelled a Santa Clara date because of that curfew. Coldplay tried to mitigate the early curfew with a request to the city for an extension. This extension was promptly denied. So with a start time of 7pm on a Wednesday night and three acts performing, it left many people to wonder what was going to happen. Would the show stop at 10pm? Really?? The fine for surpassing the time limit is reportedly $1000. Fair to say that Coldplay were going to ignore the time constraint and pay the measly grand. Ultimately, a few days before the concert, the team president notified the city that Coldplay would be the last act to play a weeknight concert at the venue. Unfortunately, it look like the stadium and city would likely lose out on future revenue.
As for show day, we planned our itinerary pretty well. We made reservations at the reasonably priced, well rated Avatar Hotel on Great America Parkway. The venue was a 15 minute walk away. My wife planned on wearing a stylish outfit that night with heels, not the most appropriate shoes for a mile long walk. To her credit, she was ready to give it a go, however I recommended we take an Uber over to the stadium. I really wanted to save her feet. We made it to the front gates in a flash, despite the congestion on the road. Arriving early paid off. We were able to enter the venue and pass through the security measures with ease and without getting caught up in crowd congestion. The tone has changed in regards to security. This show occurred two days after the infamous Las Vegas Massacre, where a sniper shot at Route 91 Harvest festival goers, resulting in the greatest loss of life ever in an American mass shooting. Security and police presence were increased, it was calming to see so many vigilant staff and PD in and around the venue. Venue security along with police personnel were on high alert. Their presence was intensified and the bag checks and security screenings were completed vigilantly and efficiently. As we passed the metal detectors we came upon three armed uniformed officers, one with an AR rifle slung. It was a very welcomed presence from our perspective. One of the officers smiled broadly and said “nice shirt, man.” The officer was referring to my Tom Petty 40th Anniversary Tour shirt, my wife and I caught the 9/1 show in Sacramento. I smiled back and said an appreciative thank you and we moved along, eager to find some eats. We took our time and made our way to the concourse level. The event staff were so helpful and gracious, approachable and eager to help us around their stadium. They enjoyed their jobs and were eager to help us around their enormous house. You could feel the love. After surveying all the food options we went for the taco vendor, asada for the win. We initially thought about trying the Pub grill, but we figured we’d take advantage of the short lines in the concourse. While in line I spotted a lady wearing a similar Tom Petty 40th tour shirt. We said hello and discussed Tom’s recent passing, she was very sentimental but happy to see tonight’s Coldplay show. We made our way to our seats and luckily the sun was setting by this point. Levi’s Stadium is notorious for having no shade apparatuses whatsoever. People bake in the Autumn months during game days. I initially had misgivings about these seats. We were mid level in the 207 section, with a diagonal view of the main stage. Luckily, we were in the 6th row somewhat behind a partition. Our first stadium gig experience was for the 9/03/16 Coldplay show at this same venue but we were very close to the stage. These seats would give us a different perspective, we’d be able to witness the concert from full frontal vantage point instead of side-stage.
Alina Baraz and Tove Lo opened the show. Alina’s set was underwhelming. To some she was chill, to me she was underwhelming. She was off key at times and doesn’t know how to dance. She does that gentle croon and kind of sways with the music. She doesn’t look like the girl in her social media pics. Her public image thru social media shows a slender, almost gaunt girl. In the flesh she’s more on the full figured side and healthy looking. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in this day and age it just continues to prove that fake is the new real, and one’s social media images are really just avatars: exaggerated and idealized representations. Sorry people, just doing some critical thinking. Tove Lo brought a stronger performance. Her signature songs “Habits” and “Talking Body” were the best received songs of her set.
Coldplay was set to go on and the vibe inside the stadium intensified, despite the chill of this October evening. For us, It was a different kind of excitement. I think because we caught a show on the first leg of the tour, we knew what to expect and we sort of felt like veterans, with a kind of faux insider knowledge of what was to come. Additionally, there was a vibe in the air that bordered on somber. It was a serious time and we even questioned whether it was appropriate to be enjoying something like this after so much carnage had taken place only a couple days previously. After the first couple numbers, Chris Martin said something like “The world is a mixed up place and all we can do is give you the best show that we can.” At the time it seemed grossly inappropriate to even think that life goes on. After much reflection and perspective, one has to agree, yes it does go on – it must. On a side note, this relates to something Styx drummer Todd Sucherman said at a drum clinic I attended this same month. To paraphrase, he said something along the lines of “you had the gumption to get dressed, put on your shoes, and travel to a live event. You wanted to experience something in the moment, in the now. Follow your passions, follow those noble pursuits, do something that excites you, because not to be a downer…after all of this, we die.” It was noble that Coldplay were going to perform and provide us with a temporary escape, a moment of connection, joy and celebration. They weren’t going to let anyone down and would perform to the best of their abilities. Like something Bruce Springsteen had said, they would perform as if tonight could be someone’s first concert, as if tonight could be someone’s last concert.
This set was very similar to the Leg 1 set with the exception of three songs. This time around the group omitted “Birds”, “Till Kingdom Come” and “Amazing Day” in favor of “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face,” “O” (with an audience member on piano) and “Something Just Like This.” The set was similar in format to the 2016 concerts, with the set structures, multiple stages, light shows and video montages still intact. The joyous bombast of “Head Full of Dreams” got the show to a celebratory and explosive start, the fireworks and confetti cannons adding to the jubilation in the stadium. We feared that our seats would make us feel like we were watching a TV screen, as if we were half a world away. However, even though we were further away from the stage, we still felt included and part of the action, we still felt like a part of the show. We jumped, we hooted, we hollered, we sang along. Like the 2016 gig, there were so many smile inducing moments at this show. What comes to mind is the barrage of color. The images on screen, the waves of blinking xylobands, the confetti canons, the fireworks displays, lazer shows, pulsing lights, etc. etc., the sights alone are enough to stir you. Other great moments included the surprise performance of “O” on the C stage at the back end of the stadium. A kid named Reese held up a sign and Chris Martin plucked him out of the crowd. Chris mentioned that they were going to give it a try and asked Reese not to be offended if the duet doesn’t work. Without mentioning the song title, Reese began fingering the opening notes to “O” off of Ghost Stories, a delicate and sentimental piece, the title inspired by a Shel Silverstein children’s book ‘The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.’ The crowd responded with a quiet gasp and applause, then listened intently. The performance was great for an impromptu, surprise duet. “Don’t Panic” featured drummer Will Champion on lead vocals. And the stripped down “In My Place” included the chorus to Tom Petty’s immortal “Free Fallin,” prompting a sing-along with the audience. Another great stand out moment for me occurred during “Charlie Brown.” There was a family sitting behind us: a little girl, a couple teen boys and their parents. And during “Charlie Brown” we were asked to put our phones away, per Guy Berryman’s request, and to bounce up and down with the beat. Everybody bounced and we could feel the concrete beneath us move under our feet, the sea of bright xylobands bouncing along as well. It was scary and amazing at the same time. And all the while, the kids behind us sang the keyboard hook to “Charlie Brown” out loud, those 11 notes at the end of the hook: na na na, na na na, na na na naa naaa (C D E, C D E, C D E D C). I couldn’t help but sing along as well as we jumped up and down. At the end of the concert, “Something Just Like This” and “Sky Full Of Stars” worked as an appropriate combo bringing the set to a bouncing yet celestial end. “Up and Up” closed the show with its gospel flavored choruses and final clusters of fireworks. It was another stellar experience and happy to witness it from a different part of the venue. It was wonderful to see this group again and we countered ourselves very fortunate that we could experience something like this for a second time. We would even consider bringing our kids along the next touring cycle. The music and the show are that enjoyable and accessible.
Tom Petty. A master. Like others have written, there is something uniquely American and easily recognizable about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ sound. It’s a classic sound, not old, but classic. Classic and as uniquely American as baseball, Coca-Cola, and the Fender Stratocaster guitar. Defying time and trends, this group has maintained a swampy Southern mystique and scored hits across the decades. As sacrilege as it sounds, I never owned any Tom Petty material, yet somehow I grew to know and love many of those gem-like tunes thanks to terrestrial radio, MTV and VH1. There were glimmers of folk, country, delta blues and Memphis Soul in these songs. His vocal style is one that shouldn’t be pleasing to the ear yet it is – a Floridian drawl and a nasal quality that weaves from baritone to alto and that can distinctly fit the rockers, the ballads and everything in between.
We had plans to see the group in Sacramento on the originally scheduled date of 8/25. The show rapidly sold out and I kicked myself for not getting on the ticket purchase more quickly. Come to find out, Tom Petty came down with Laryngitis and had to postpone the show to a new date of 9/1. Some ticket holders weren’t able to commit to the new date…low and behold, some seats were now available. As fate would have it, we sold our tickets to a San Diego Coldplay show for October and it allowed us some freedom to buy into this 9/1 Tom Petty makeup date. Never would we have thought this would be one of Tom Petty’s final performances.
The Golden 1 Center is Sacramento’s band new indoor arena. It replaced the Sleep Train/Arco Arena which closed in December of 2016. The Golden 1 was a polished and striking venue, and it still smelled new. What struck us in very positive ways were the ease of entrance and the quick flow of the concessions lines. This had to be the easiest entrance we ever experienced. We planned our evening fairly well and worked out the logistics. We stayed at a hotel a short two blocks away, 5 minute walk. We were able to safely stroll down during the heatwave without discomfort. As walkers we didn’t have to worry about congested traffic, nor did we have any issues with transients or weirdos (the bad kind of weirdos). As we made our way to the front doors, I spotted a familiar looking man, with long straight hair and a lanky figure. There was something crazy familiar about the way he moved. I said to my wife, man…that looks like the singer for Tesla. We looked at each other, puzzled, and she said “well go ask him!” So I sheepishly approached him and yes, it was Jeff Keith! He came to see the show with who I presume is his wife. Jeff was such a gracious man, he stopped to chat with us and even introduced himself to my wife. He was all smiles and didn’t mind pausing to have a few words with a fan and snap a picture. Very cool and random experience. They went their separate way and we entered the venue. We made our way upstairs and sampled the drinks. The concessions lines flowed with super efficiency. Sure the prices are steep, but that’s to be expected and the house needs to make their money. I was impressed by the variety of alcohol, extensive menu and friendly staff. It was cool to have such an easy and welcoming experience at an arena
I called TM and requested aisle seats in the first few rows of the upper section. We got lucky with 3rd row aisle seats halfway back from the stage, upper level. We had a great vantage point without being too far away from the stage. Fans will want to slap me, but I was afraid that we were going to receive a tired and aged Tom Petty. Granted, Petty and the Heartbreakers have been in the business for 40 years – but some veteran acts have more energy and spirit than others. That foolish assumption quickly melted away as we witnessed an engaging and chatty Tom Petty, all smiles and committed to a kick-ass performance. There was no indication that he had been ill, nor did he mention the canceled, original date. At the beginning of the set, Petty mentioned that they were playing as if the set was an LP and they were going to drop the needle wherever they wanted. The show opened with “Rockin Around With You” off of the first album, a rollicking opening. My wife and I are casual listeners at best. Even without great familiarity with the songs or lyrics, we still knew or at least recognized the majority of the selections performed. It was a generous 2 hour set spanning decades, and it flew by quickly. It didn’t feel like 2 hours at all. There were 19 songs performed, a very strong set with no filler. The group has such a rich, lengthy history, they constructed a lean yet ample set and still had to omit several classics like “Into the Great Wide Open,” “The Wait,” “You Got Lucky,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Even the Losers,” etc. etc. etc. With all the strong material available, the group could easily construct a three hour show but would likely slump over from exhaustion by the end of the set. The crowd went nuts. One could feel the heart, the love for this group. The volume swell was super impressive, the energy within the arena continued to build and build. And the smell of reefer began to permeate the Golden 1. A grinning and appreciative Tom Petty coyly exclaimed “I feel a little mojo building up in here! Can ya feel it!?” The performances were very good. The group didn’t miss a step, performing all those classics with equal parts ease and passion. Bassist Ron Blair and keyboard player Benmont Trench have been mainstays with the Heart Breakers since the beginning. Utility man Scott Thurston has been playing with the group since the 1990s, the same with drumming great, Steve Ferrone. There’s a Duran Duran connection: Steve played drums on the studio version of “Ordinary World.” “I Won’t Back Down” was dedicated to the people of Houston who were experiencing some of the worst flooding in the city’s and the nation’s history. “Learning To Fly” was delicately performed with a lone acoustic guitar, the audience blending their voices with Petty’s for a sweet and stripped down rendition. At another point in the show, Petty recounted how he first met guitarist Mike Campbell at a scary old house in Gainsville. Petty said that he paid a friend to drive him over to this dilapidated house and he went in alone. After hearing Campbell rip through “Johnny B. Good,” Petty told us with that classic Cheshire grin, “I don’t know who you are, man, but you’re in my band forever!” The gig was fun and it was filled with timeless music, performed by living legends that showed no indication of slowing down. The songs flew over with bounce and rumble, like the feel of a weathered train chugging along, reliable and solid. As a kid, my first introduction to the music of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” it was the trippy and comical video that started it all for me. I was like, who’s this guy in the Mad Hatter outfit!? As for the music, it was the lyrics and the new wave elements that got me, as well as that cool drum riff on the toms. Little did I know the sound was thanks in part to Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, who also played the part of the Caterpillar in the video. And from there, the music of Tom Petty weaved in and out of my musical world by way of MTV and classic rock FM radio. The music of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers is like a natural fixture: There’s a magical permanence to this music, mandatory listening. You have to experience it. It was a treat seeing another master like Tom Petty live. And the love from the crowd is evident and breathtaking.
- Rockin Around With You
- Mary Jane’s Last Dance
- You Don’t Know How It Feels
- Forgotten Man
- I Won’t Back Down
- Free Fallin’
- Don’t Come Around Here No More
- It’s Good to be King
- Crawling Back To You
- Learning To Fly
- Yer So Bad
- I Should Have Known It
- Runnin’ Down a Dream
- You Wreck Me
- American Girl