Petty presents a five-star concert
By Michelle Parks
The Evening Independent — October 7, 1981
“Ya’ll know what?” Petty asks the crowd. “I’m in love … it’s gonna be one of them crazy nights.”
Tom Petty picked and grinned, sauntered, beckoned, and cajoled. The Bayfront Center crowd was feeling good Tuesday night and he was reveling in the delight that The Heartbreakers were making it so.
As warmup, Joe Ely and band were moderately successful is sustaining and drawing out the crowd’s excitement, despite Ely’s voice often being drowned out by the guitars. Good Rockin’ Tonight and the oldie Eeny Meeny were done well, but specific lines to songs and their intensity particularly stand out (“You’re the kind who likes to change your mind/And when you start to rain, you pour … it’s the end of the lover’s drought”).
Ely’s rockabilly was a good choice for a Heartbreakers opener, and although the music was good, the musicians weren’t Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and they held no promise of Stevie Nicks joining them.
Through a slew of hits, Petty razzle-dazzled the crowd. He was enjoying the crowd and flattery got him everywhere. The Waiting, from his newest album Hard Promises, was dedicated to St. Petersburg.
Petty’s laughing grin turned sardonic on Don’t Do Me Like That, and Woman In Love was exceptional.
A second microphone was placed onstage. Pirouetting, nearly prancing across the stage, came Stevie Nicks.
She picked up a red rose thrown from the crwod and she and Petty launched into The Insider. Her choice, with its recognizable slurring softness as well as its throaty power, accompanied Petty’s raspy emotiveness perfectly.
Their chart-topping hit Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around was next. Twists and changes in inflection at the end of the song lines made the song enjoyably different from the recorded version. Stevie played more with orchestrated hand flutters and pirouettes, her blonder-than-usual hair cascading over her black, satiny blouse.
King’s Road followed Stevie’s exit. This is good, clean Petty music with great guitar licks and super drum work by Stan Lynch.
But the next song was the most theatrical of the night, the longest and perhaps, the most gut-wrenching. It was Breakdown, and Petty nearly did.
Ad-libbing and a “Hit the road, Jack” take off, numerous inflections of the catch phrases, “it’s all right/I don’t mind,” and exceptional guitar work by all three guitarists highlighted this song. When it was over, Petty was spent; he was draped over the microphone, hands and arms covering his face.
But the music kept coming.
For two encores, it kept coming.
Shout, the first encore song, was outrageous. Petty talked and laughed and told stories. He shouted, the audience shouted. It was fun in Florida, by golly.
No one was sure if they’d come back a second time. The second microphone was, again, the giveaway. Stevie joined them for Wild Thing, an early ’60s hit. It was an interesting choice to end the show.