The power of rock |

The power of rock

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Rock ‘n’ roll can never die, not if Tom Petty and Neil Young have anything to say about it. On consecutive nights at Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Festival, Petty and Young, in very different ways, demonstrated the power of rock.

Petty and his band the Heartbreakers powered through a tight set of his hits. “American Girl,” “Refugee,” “Free Fallin,'” and “Won’t Back Down” all gave the crowd plenty of chances to scream along.

Young went a different route, opening his show with “Greendale,” his new theatrical song cycle. With the stage packed with lip-synching actors, big sets and a video screen, Young sang about the environment, the media, government failure and, ultimately, his faith in individual actions. After “Greendale” concluded with the memorable “Be the Rain,” Young and his band Crazy Horse ripped through a set of classics, including “Mr. Soul,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “My My, Hey Hey” and the relevant “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Reggae, bluegrass and groove also sounded very alive over the four-day festival.

Day one featured the Greyboy Allstars, apparently satisfied with their recent reunion, smiling while making their feel-good groove jazz. The positive vibes continued as charismatic African reggae singer Alpha Blondy sang in Hebrew, English, French and more.

On Saturday, after Colorado’s Leftover Salmon played an inspired mix of bluegrass, zydeco and rock, the rains came. The heavy storm caused Bo Diddley to cut off his set after just a few so-so blues and soul tunes, and even a stab at a rap number. But the weather showed impeccable timing: By the time Petty took the stage, the skies had cleared and Petty was left to make his own thunder.

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Sunday was a monster day, as the North Mississippi Allstars’ potent blues-rock set the stage for Young’s performance.

Monday featured Sam Bush moving from bluegrass to reggae to rock to funk, before country singer Clint Black showed his own diverse interests, capping his show with a cover of Steely Dan’s “Josie.”