Album: Live at the Fillmore – 1997
While some songs from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers historic 1997 residency at San Francisco’s (rightly) acclaimed Fillmore showed up on The Live Anthology, it was absolutely a treat for a full-blown 4-CD box set of recordings from the shows end up in my Christmas stocking a quarter-century later. Thanks Santa! Or more accurately, thanks Mike Campbell and Ryan Ulyate, who have channeled their grief into a bunch of posthumous releases of which this one is the most recent.
The Fillmore residencies were really more a series of parties that straight-up rock shows and so the 70+ tracks on Live at the Fillmore – 1997 are replete with deep cuts, short intros, guest artists, cover songs — the third disc doesn’t have a single Petty original — and stretched-out versions, the most stretched-out of which is the Wildflowers highlight, “It’s Good To Be King,” another outsider-looking-in song written from the perspective of the guy in “Even The Losers.”
It’s good to be king and have your own world
It helps to make friends, it’s good to meet girls
A sweet little queen who can’t run away
It’s good to be king, whatever it pays
Obviously, on Wildflowers, “It’s Good To Be King” features a big orchestral arrangement from Michael Kamen, which they weren’t going to try to replicate in a live setting, though for the first few minutes the arrangement is basically otherwise the same, right down to the Mike Campbell guitar solo that quotes the melody line after the second chorus — where Petty sings “Yeah, I’ll be king / When dogs get wings” — and the stately Benmont Tench piano solo after the outro.
Excuse me if I
Have some place in my mind
Where I go time to time
In the studio version, the orchestra swallows up the piano solo and essentially grinds the song to its end. On the live version, that piano solo is just the beginning, because instead of the song ending, we’re treated to a very long, thoughtful guitar solo from
Mike Campbell Tom Petty. A very very very long guitar solo, because why not?
His solo is followed by some more-fun-in-concert-than-on-a-recording atmospheric doodling from Petty, Campbell and Tench as the rest of the band lays completely out, waiting for somebody to take control. I’m being facetious, of course, because this was all clearly meticulously worked out, right down to the part where they all crash together, signaling the near rave-up that accompanies Campbell’s long guitar solo that takes them to the ending of the song, which consists once again of Petty and Campbell slowly playing notes around each other while everybody else watches, until they eventually end it.
They liked this arrangement so much that they were still playing it 20 years later on Petty’s final tour, and it was clearly always a crowd favorite.
“It’s Good To Be King (Live at the Fillmore, 1997)
“It’s Good to Be King” (Gainesville, 2006)
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