Editor’s Note: I find this review personally frustrating as it focuses more on the opening act than it does Petty (he only gets 3 sentences!). I have nothing against the opening act, but it’s Petty’s show, and that’s what the review should be about. I’m not alone in thinking this.
Opening act outshines Petty
By Doug Gebhard
Beaver County Times — August 5, 1981
Time was when an opening act would inspire my rock curiosity to such an extent that I would run right out the day after a show and buy the group’s latest album. With a little luck, the band would end up with lots of my cash in its bank account before too long.
Joe Ely’s performance as support act to Tom Petty last night in the Civic Arena was such a case.
Raised in Lubbock, Texas (also the home of Buddy Holly), Ely’s fame has been increasing steadily since his tour with the Clash last year here and in England. A recent blurb in Time about this erstwhile country rocker turned “new country” called him the inheritor of the Outlaws’ (Willie and Waylon) raunchiness.
Raw Texas swing combined with Jerry Lee Lewis rock ‘n’ roll is what Ely’s music is all about. And on top of that, his band packs a lot of visual surprises and delights.
An accordion player playfully weaves chords around a throaty saxophone while the piano player boogie-woogies all over the place. The guitar player could cut through the walls of Jericho with his leads.
Meanwhile, Ely’s romps and strides about the stage like a drunk looking for a barroom brawl, belting out songs from his most recent LP “Musta Notta Gotta Lotta.” Ralph Lauren could take a lesson from Ely’s authentic cowboy chic. Perfectly coiffed D.A., billowy piped shirt with shin-high cowboy boots.
Tom Petty, on the other band, is too cute for his own good.
The minstrel with a cause who broke the will of his record company by refusing to allow his album released at a $9.98 list price, could do well to inject some of the fight he demonstrated in the courtroom into his stage show.
From the opening (“From the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen, Tom Petty”) to the encore of “Shout” (made famous in the movie “Animal House” and done with as much sincerity) Petty’s show smacked of pretension.