Talent in Action
Review by Ethlie Ann Vare
Billboard — August 17, 1985
TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS | LONE JUSTICE | The Forum, Los Angeles | Tickets: $16.50, $14
Tom Petty’s first Los Angeles appearance in three years was marked by a pleasant synthesis of tight and loose on Aug. 1: The musicianship of the Heartbreakers and their tour backup (three horns, two singers) was seamless, while T.P.’s informal stage banter and sleepy posture kept the feeling laid-back. Ever since he released the “Southern Accents” album, Petty’s started to drawl more.
Petty seemed heartened by the warm welcome of the sold-out house in his adopted city (word is the show hasn’t been doing all that well elsewhere) and gave the ticket-holders a jam-packed two-hour set. With a voice that starts at his rear molar and ends at his left bicuspid Petty sang the songs the folks wanted to hear: “Breakdown,” “You Got Lucky,” “Refugee,” and most of the contents of the last MCA release. The stage set consisted of antebellum plantation-like columns, between which backdrops and video screens altered the mood.
When Petty got to “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” the backdrop became a proper ’60s psychedelic light show. Well, not proper, perhaps: It was on videotape. Pulsating liquid light that glows identically night after night loses something in the translation. But the song certainly didn’t suffer, especially when the Heartbreakers were joined by guest guitarist Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, who co-wrote the song. Not to take away from Petty’s own songwriting skills, but that and the final encore of “Make It Better (Forget About Me),” Stewart’s other contribution, were without doubt the high points of the show.
Still, there was great applause for Petty’s good-natured cover of the Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock’N’Roll Star” (you think he doesn’t read all those record reviews?), and the balladic intro to “Rebels,” with Petty under a halo spot a la Springsteen, worked itself into one rocking rave-up. The cover of the Music Explosion’s 1967 hit “Little Bit Of Soul” was less well advised, but Stewart seemed to get a great kick out of it, and it was a good showoff piece for bassist Howie Epstein.
Keyboardist Benmont Tench, his usual excellent self, did double duty when he joined openers Lone Justice onstage for a couple of their numbers. Geffen’s cowpunk protostars have been suffering under the weight of their own great potential lately, often disappointing audiences simply because so much was expected of them. But happily, this show presented them at their dynamic best. Maria McKee proved that all the “next Janis Joplin” hype has a basis in fact, and jumped around the stage like a whirling dervish as she belted out the tunes.