Review: Tom Petty and group will break your heart
By Michelle Parks
St. Petersburg Independent — Monday, February 14, 1983
No amount of musical creativity, expertise or energy could have changed things for Nick Lowe and his Noise on the Go, featuring Paul Carrack (recently of Squeeze).
Anywhere in Europe, and the situation would have been reversed. But in St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Center arena Friday night, it was this:
A sold-out crowd (8,400) of Florida rockers had come to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. No one else, just the most successful band to come out of Florida since Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The audience, though not discourteous, had little interest in Lowe’s vague band. Few paid attention to the exceptionally good music, and it must have been quite ego deflating for these musicians so well-respected and capable of energizing audiences elsewhere. Carrack’s Squeeze success with Tempted and his Amazing Rhythm Aces’ hit How Long were acknowledged, but neither they nor the blatant Stick It, the odd-ball Saint Beneath the Paint or the now, exciting, I Knew The Bride (and she used to rock ‘n’ roll) drew more than limited response.
For the Heartbreakers, however, the night was nothing short of the proverbial magic.
Incredibly good sound (for the Bayfront) and strong rapport with the audience were evident from the opener, One Story Town, to the last song of the last encore.
The familiar Heartbreakers’ sound came through in superb form. Defying critics’ protestations that the group’s songs all sound alike, their familiarity bred not contempt but reawakened excitement. Like partners in a longstanding relationship who once again realize what the anticipation is all about, familiarity does not diminish, but heightens, the excitement.
The Heartbreakers create an overall headiness when performing live that is often muffled in recordings. Phil Jones’ percussion work was used to far better advantage Friday than on the newest album, Long After Dark, and, combined with the room afforded piano Benmont Tench, added just the right amount of difference to the live versions of the songs everyone in the audience knew word for word.
The older King’s Road was a marvelous jamming version that showcased the individual players. The audience’s innate pleasure in recognizing the imploring Thing About You, the biting cynicism of You Got Lucky and the pensiveness of The Waiting was obvious to Petty, and he played up to it.
He went beserk on Breakdown and Woman In Love, and the oldie Hang On Sloopy was a definite success with the crowd that was barely of walking age when it first came out.
Twice during the show, he obliged the audience’s need for attention when the light board pivoted and flashed the crowd. He pranced and cajoled and used the set ramps and soap boxes to make sure his music’s restlessness did not go unnoticed.
Change of Heart and Straight Into Darkness from the new album got as good a reaction of Refugee, but it was the first encore song that made the revival-like crowd literally sing hallelugah.
Petty thanked the crowd for being so “wonderful to play to,” and if any rock ‘n’ roller has said that no sincerely, it was Petty. The Heartbreakers had as good a time playing as the audience did listening. That’s usual with this group.
Dixie began the second encore and it punctuated the “going back home” attitude Petty seems to thankful for upon returning to play in Florida. American Girl finished it and, by that time, the players seemed noticeably drained. It was a reluctant crowd, however, that let them leave the stage.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Nick Lowe and his Noise on the Go, featuring Paul Carrack, Friday night at the Bayfront Center. One performance only; admission charged.