Back in the Seventies, Tom Petty’s first band Mudcrutch played everywhere — from unlicensed backyard festivals to topless bars — but they never performed at a charity benefit. On Saturday night, the reunited Mudcrutch played their first show in over three decades in the 500-seat Malibu Performing Arts Center, kicking off a thirteen-date California club tour and helping to raise funds for the Midnight Mission in Los Angeles.
“This is a trip, isn’t it?” Petty asked the well-heeled audience. “I’m just trying to get really good and grounded here.” The band played for an hour and a half, performing all fourteen songs on their forthcoming debut album, plus a clutch of covers from their early repertoire: Elvis Presley’s “Rip It Up,” Bill Monroe’s “Love, Please Come Home,” the Rolling Stones’ “Off the Hook” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential.” (They also threw in a Mudcrutch power-pop original from the early ’70s, “I Can’t Fight It,” although it took three false starts before they nailed it.)
Mike Campbell and Tom Leadon had a rapport on guitar that belied their long separation, making the traditional “June Apple” sound like an electrifying blend of bluegrass and Television. Benmont Tench was a virtuoso on piano and organ as per usual, and even took lead vocals on “This Is a Good Street.” Petty looked ecstatic to be playing bass again, and managed to whip the crowd into a rock and roll fervor: on the way out, the crowd carefully stepped over the broken glass of champagne flutes.