*Mudcrutch takes a bow in front of your intrepid blogger (apologies to Tom Leadon on the right who I drunkenly cut off)
It was about a month ago I got the text…. it was from one of my dearest friends, Stormin’… it went: “My prayer has been answered. Mudcrutch May 26, Ogden Theater. Unfortunately my pre-sales code only allows for two tickets. Thoughts?” “Thoughts” indeed….the hook was baited but would I be able to take it? My first thought, as it always is when Stormin’ invites me off to an adventure was “How am I going to work this?…” The Rock Chick, strangely, is not a fan of Mudcrutch but is a fan of Tom Petty. It’s a little like saying you like Superman, but you’re not crazy about that Clark Kent guy. There were options… I could go alone but I quickly realized this was Memorial Day Weekend and that wouldn’t fly. I could buy the Rock Chick a ticket but that option was facing some stiff resistance. Or, and this is what we compromised on, I’d go alone with Stormin’ and the Rock Chick would get to go to Vail the next day… It was a dicey gamble, the Rock Chick likes to shop, but I can now say with clear hindsight, it was a good bargain all around.
In the old days, when Stormin’ and I went off into the night time, in search of rock and roll and other recreations, there was a good chance one or both of us would end up in shackles. There have been “episodes” in the past that decorum prohibits me from discussing in this rather public format. Things are quieter now that we’re both married dudes… I was on vacation all week anticipating this concert. The last time Mudcrutch toured they only played dates in LA and SF or maybe just LA… this was their first real trek across the States. I got to Denver Wednesday night to discover Stormin’ had his vegetable crisper full of beer and, of all things, “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest on the stereo. Oh, yes, this was working out perfectly.
The only other time I was in the Ogden Theater in Denver was when I was there for the Cult’s “Electric” Tour where they performed, not surprisingly from the name, the entire “Electric” album. That was a banner evening. The Ogden seats, and I’m guessing here, maybe 1500 to 1600 people. I was assuming being able to see Petty and a few of the Heartbreakers in Mudcrutch in this small room was going to be something special. For once, I was right… It was an amazing night. Since we had the VIP package, we got in earlier than the rest of the GA crowd and ended up right at the stage, two people back from the barricade. There’s an intimacy in a small theater that I experienced first hand. When Petty came out, with his bass guitar slung low, he’d look slightly to his left, right into my eyes. As he sang, there were a few times I had to look away, it was like he was looking right into my soul. That’s how close I was. So naturally, this was not a normal show for me.
First and foremost I must call out Mike Campbell. He is one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever seen. Whether in the Heartbreakers or Mudcrutch, he’s (as my friend Stormin’ said) “the glue.” Whether it was mandolin or guitar, the guy just shredded. To see his dexterity up close was something I will not soon forget. Benmont Tench, the other Heartbreaker in Mudcrutch, on keyboards was equally amazing. His boogie-woogie piano was all over the music. Each member sang at least 1 song and I must give a shout out to rhythm guitarist Tom Leadon (Bernie from the Eagles brother) for the amazing lead, harmony and backing vocals he contributed. He and Petty’s banter caused most of the laughter during the show. Randall Marsh on drums was a big hitter – not a lot of swing – but he was very capable and his vocal turn on “Beautiful World” was spot on. Petty played a nice bass guitar. He seemed almost nervous to be away from his natural instrument, the guitar. His hands were even shaking a bit as they came on stage. His vocals were amazing as usual. “I Forgave It All,” a haunting ballad and “Hungry No More” were vocal performances that I will never forget. Simply beautiful.
The show opened with a tune off the first Mudcrutch album, “Shady Grove” which spotlights both Leadon and Petty’s vocals. They followed up with three more tunes from the first record until they got to the first single from “2,” “Trailer.” They played almost all of “2” with the exception of “Beautiful Blue” which I’d liked to have heard and a good portion of “Mudcrutch.” The encore was a Jerry Lee Lewis cover, once again spotlighting the amazing piano of Ben Tench. Anyone expecting to hear something from the Heartbreaker’s repertoire will be disappointed… I was not.
Highlights for me include the Byrds cover from the first album, “Six Days On the Road,” which is just a great, galloping road tune. “Beautiful World,” “Dreams of Flying,” and “Crystal River” were all great performances. The latter tune being the longest jam they played all night. The interplay between band members was a lot of fun. Campbell would walk over to Leadon to trade licks, or all the guitarist would end a song standing near the piano watching Tench bang out a solo. The song “Hope” from “2” which on the record is an organ driven Animals’ style rocker, turned into a muscular guitar showcase for Campbell.
“Bootleg Flyer” was the last song in the main set and it was a scorcher. It was the perfect way to wrap up the two hour set. The band quickly returned for the encore, the aforementioned Jerry Lee Lewis’ cover, “High School Confidential.” The crowd was frenzied at that point. I could barely hear over the screams as Petty and the rest of the band took their final bow, right in front of me, as pictured above.
My legs were sore, but I had a huge smile on my face as a hobbled out of the Ogden. I once again grabbed my buddy Stormin’s shoulder and yelled, “Fuck, wow!” It was all I could muster. Storm and I staggered down to a deserted bar and had a few celebratory beers and finally managed to convince the bartender to call us a cab.
Where ever you happen to live… if Mudcrutch is in your town, call the ticket broker, this is a must see show.