Tom Petty’s Live Aid Experience: A Reflection on the 1980s Mega Concert

Meta Description: Discover Tom Petty’s thoughts on Live Aid, his comparison with Farm Aid, and why the legendary rocker felt out of place at the 1980s mega concert.

Most people of a certain age demographic probably remember Live Aid the same way others remember the Moon landing. Although the shows were far from the first major worldwide concert, the fact that so many iconic stars came together under one roof for charity was the kind of massive blockbuster that only the 1980s could have produced. Despite the enormous amount of talent on display, Tom Petty would have sooner done away with playing any of his set that day.

Tom Petty’s Live Aid Experience

Tom Petty’s Live Aid performance was not about god-awful performances. In fact, any show from those dates would have been enough for any musician to quit music altogether and still be satisfied, with everyone from Paul McCartney to Phil Collins turning in amazing sets. U2 and Queen delivered more than just typical rock concerts, with Freddie Mercury’s crowd-amping performance midway through Queen’s set being a masterclass in live performance.

For Petty, however, Live Aid was just another gig in front of a massive crowd. Although he had played to huge crowds before, something about the gig’s massive commercial potential was far from what he had expected.

Tom Petty’s Preference for Farm Aid

Years later, while discussing playing the benefit Farm Aid, Petty expressed a clear preference over Live Aid. He told Paul Zollo, “That was a lot of fun because it was much better than Live Aid to me, because I didn’t like a single act that I saw at Live Aid. It was so crappy. Maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t like it. I liked Led Zeppelin. But it wasn’t really our kind of show.”

Given the nature of Tom Petty’s music, it’s easy to see why he didn’t feel like he fit in with the flavors of the day. Known for crafting beautiful portraits of American life, Petty was suddenly sharing airtime with the creators of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Pride’.

Tom Petty at Home with Farm Aid

The fact that Farm Aid was founded by artists like Neil Young and Willie Nelson tells you everything you need to know. Tom Petty’s music was closer to the bone than the glamorous side of rock, and sharing the stage with legends like Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison made him feel right at home.

Reflections on Live Aid

Still, perhaps Petty didn’t see the right acts when he first descended into that stadium for Live Aid. Say what you want about bands that aren’t to your taste, but there’s a good chance that anyone who looks in the general vicinity of Queen at Live Aid could be an instantly converted rock fan.

In conclusion, Tom Petty’s Live Aid experience highlights his unique position within the rock world. His reflections on Live Aid versus Farm Aid provide insight into his musical preferences and the kind of shows where he felt most at home.

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