Live Wave: Tom Pety and the Heartbreakers, Tommy Tutone | Blossom, June 20
Review by Dave Voelker
Cleveland Scene — June 26, 1980
The advance sellout of Tom Petty’s first Blossom appearance dramatically confirmed how his popularity has skyrocketed since last fall’s release of DAMN THE TORPEDOES. After riding out several tough, lean years, Petty’s hard work and dedication are finally paying off in spades, earning him the widespread acclaim that those who have followed him closely from the start knew was inevitable. Tom Petty now stands at the zenith of his career, and his ebullience on stage makes it clear that he’s enjoying it all tremendously.
As was his concert last year at the Palace, this night’s performance was a crowd-pleaser from start to finish. Petty growled, stuttered and crooned; the Heartbreakers backed him with both professional tightness and emotional vigor. If it was hard to focus on the show’s fine parts, it was because crowd rowdiness and the distractions of a summer evening often made it difficult to concentrate. For many — especially the thousands on the lawn — it was really more of a “happening” than a concert, with To Petty providing the entertainment for what had to be the are’s biggest party this night.
On whatever level of consciosness one took in the show, Petty and his crew struck one pleasant chord after the next. As they skipped back and forth among their three albums for material, you realize the group has been cranking out equally potent songs from the very beginning. From “Breakdown” and “I Need To Know” to “Refugee,” Petty’s gold mine of songs ensured that his set never suffered a lull.
The group’s stage manner has improved markedly since the early days, too. They’re genuinely exciting to watch, allowing themselves to loosen up enough that they feel what they’re playing, but not so much that they lose the keen edge that accents their music and drives it home. Petty himself drew strength from the audience’s enthusiastic response, and they responded to his vivacity by cheering even louder, providing a continuning feedback loop that climaxed in terminal bliss for both.
Tommy Tutone didn’t fare nearly so well. They appeared to be doing their best, but somethng was missing, thouh it’d be difficult to say what. Perhaps their inexperience at playing to such a large crowd, or the fact that there was a constant stream of late arrivals, kept them from earning more than polite applause. Or maybe it was the fact that their music seemed heavy on style and light on substance.