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A long time coming, but Mudcrutch worth wait

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Suppose you've been waiting all month for that superzilla rock concert and you've gotten over the rip-off ticket scalper fees and the big night arrives. You've finally jostled your way inside after being frisked and overcharged for a T-shirt and a beer. At last the music starts and all the mini-meltdowns are forgotten.

The rock star hits the stage and announces, "We'd like to play you a brand new song." Picture that going on all night long, and you can imagine the sold-out Mudcrutch show Sunday night at the venerable Ventura Theatre, packed with rockers young and old.

About Mudcrutch, which first formed more than 30 years ago: When the dreaded and often fatal "creative differences" break up a band, more often than not it's the old "Need a bass player, man" scenario.

Well, the bass player of Mudcrutch showed up all right — Tom Petty.

He brought along a couple of Mud originals, guitar player Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh, as well as two current Heartbreakers, keyboard player Benmont Tench and guitar player Mike Campbell. Petty also brought along the sold-out crowd who got to hear a few covers and plenty of brand new Mudcrutch off its long overdue debut, due out April 29.

Thirty-something years ago, Mudcrutch left Gainesville, Fla., and came out west to SoCal to become rock stars. The band couldn't get it together in the studio and broke up in 1975. Since then, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have done OK for themselves, ya think?

While Tench and Campbell were and are Heartbreakers, Leadon ended up teaching guitar in Tennessee and Marsh moved to Ojai, where he started a band called Code Blue many moons ago.

Not too long ago — not long after Petty said, "Hey, let's do Mudcrutch again" — they got together and recorded their long-delayed debut album, and so here they were at the packed Ventura venue.

(Mudcrutch is doing several West Coast shows, including half a dozen starting Friday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood; visit Ticketmaster.com for details.)

At the lone Ventura County show, someone lied about the 7 o'clock start time, which ended up being about 8:30. But when the band came out, it was to thunderous applause and new tune "Shady Grove," representative of the jangly country folk rock album, with harmonies by Petty and Leadon. They played plenty more, too, all pleasant enough by a tight band obviously enjoying themselves.

The crowd cheered every solo and answered the usual questions — "Are you ready?!" — with more noisy approval. Hey, it was Tom Petty, usually an arena rock star, right here at the Ventura Theatre.

Between songs, Petty was folksy and fun. "It's incredibly great to have the old band back together after all these years," he said, "and to be reunited with old friends."

The songs themselves were not great but solid. None of the new Mudcrutch music seemed to have hit potential, unlike those zillion Heartbreaker hits — but who knows what we'll like in another 32 years?

E-mail music writer Bill Locey at blocey@pacbell.net.

http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2008/apr/22/a-long-time-coming-but-mudcrutch-worth-wait/

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