Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunday ACL Wrap-Up

I didn't make it to the end of ACL after all. The skies opened up about 40 minutes into Tom Petty's set and it wasn't a given that the rain would stop. I didn't feel like waiting around to find out. As it was, Petty began playing again around 9:35. I can say the first half of the set was pretty good.

After kicking off with a somewhat uneven "Listen to Her Heart" (perhaps because of sound trouble), Petty ran through "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Fallin'," all of which were sung enthusiastically by two short-but-loud women standing right behind me. The new single "Saving Grace" sounded good, as did an unexpected cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well."

Thirty years after his debut LP, Petty still puts on a good show. I miss former Heartbreaker drummer Stan Lynch, though. I don't doubt that Steve Ferrone has a wider range and is technically more proficient, but he doesn't have that barely-behind-the-beat nuance that Lynch had.

As expected, the Flaming Lips at sunset proved to be an amazing spectacle. A cadre of Santa Clauses danced on one end of the stage while a group of go-go girl Martians danced at the other end. Confetti cannons, giant balloons and inflatable robots assured visual stimulation even for the folks in the back. This is a band that knows how to play a festival gig.

Musically, the Lips bashed through "Race for the Prize," "She Don't Use Jelly," "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and set closer "Do You Realize?" in a manner that left no doubt as to those songs' rock anthem pedigree. Wayne Coyne gave a shout-out to the Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid and the Hickoids for getting the Oklahoma City-based band into Texas during the Eighties. That was a nice touch in front of 30,000 fans.

Of the four ACL Music Festivals I've attended, I'd probably rank this as my second favorite. I liked the 2003 edition a little more because the weather was better and the novelty factor was in full effect, but 2006 definitely beat out the last two years. I'll never be a big fan of festivals, but as they go, I still think ACL runs a pretty good show.

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