Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took the stage only a few minutes late and the crowd was on its feet by the end of the first song. Petty opened with his signature cover of The Byrds’ ‘So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’. Petty, wearing jeans and a maroon jacket, told the audience to call the babysitter because he felt like playing for a long time. From the look in Petty’s eyes and the growl in his voice, we knew we were in for something special. The Heartbreakers were on fire from the start as they rolled into ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ with the second song of the night. Reveling in the adulation of his appreciative audience, Petty drawled, “Oh man, we’re gonna have some fun tonight.”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been rocking since the 1970s with few lineup changes, but Hypnotic Eye is their first number one album. Everyone who purchased a ticket for this tour received a free download of the album. It seems in the digital age when no one is buying music anymore, it doesn’t really matter if you just give them away. Four songs from Hypnotic Eye made it into the concert set list, including the singles ‘American Dream, Plan B’ and ‘U Get Me High’.
The stage dressing was simple for this show: a draped white sheet in the background and the band and their equipment. It was a simple testament that Petty’s music speaks for itself. The great thing about a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show is the wide range of songs. Petty adds covers to the set list and isn’t shy about including lesser-known songs. This concert was no exception, mixing some of Petty’s solo work with covers, songs from the new album and classic Heartbreakers tunes.
A rock and roll concert is not complete without fan favorite sing alongs. The crowd was incredibley loud as they drowned out the Heartbreakers on songs such ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and ‘Free Fallin.”Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers raised the roof even higher as they transitioned into a pair of stellar covers: ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ by Paul Revere and the Raiders and a dark, beautiful ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ from Petty’s days with the Traveling Wilburys.
Petty changed the tempo mid-show, pulling out the acoustic guitar for a few songs, including a rare, poignant live performance of ‘Two Gunslingers’, a cover of ‘I’ve Got a Woman’ by Ray Charles, then a lovely rendition of ‘Learning to Fly’. The acoustic mini-set was a mellow interlude in the middle of the fast-paced show before the band rocked through the final few songs, finishing with the ever-popular ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’. In the darkness that followed, the cheers for an encore were nearly deafening.
It would have taken all night to fit four decades of hits in. By the time the show finished two hours later, it was hard to remember they hadn’t played ‘Even the Losers’ or ‘The Waiting’ or ‘You Don’t Know How it Feels’. When the lights came up after the short but sweet two-song encore of ‘You Wreck Me’ followed by ‘American Girl’, it was late, as Petty had promised
Written by J Harrison