Rock: Petty’s ‘Caravan’
By Jon Pareles
The New York Times — July 11, 1987
“Rock-and-Roll Caravan,” a touring triple bill headlined by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, pulled into Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. It was a distinctly old-fashioned concert, circa mid-1970’s, with casual staging and guitar-driven, noncomputerized songs that looked back to Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
The Heartbreakers toured with Mr. Dylan last year, and from him Mr. Petty has learned how to turn a typical rock set into a casual, meandering group of songs. On Wednesday, the set mixed Heartbreakers hits, songs from the band’s current album “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough),” and songs by the Clash, the Byrds, Chuck Berry and Buffalo Springfield, along with rambling comments between songs by Mr. Petty. His lyrics alternate between reassurance (as in “Refugee”), sullen individualism (“Jammin’ Me,” “Think About Me”) or a combination (“It’ll All Work Out”), but he delivers them all deadpan.
After playing together for more than a decade, the Heartbreakers mesh with an easygoing professionalism, sounding informal but never missing a note. While the set had some fine moments, however, Mr. Petty’s odd pacing kept it from taking off; at times, the music seemed to be elapsing in slow motion.
The contrast was heightened by the Georgia Satellites, who played a stomping, hollering set of straightforward three-chord rock-and-roll. The Satellites kick hard, like some distilled essence of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” But where the music suggests hell-raising, the lyrics say just the opposite. Unlike their rock predecessors, the Satellites’ songs advocate staying in love and out of trouble, not vice versa. But with their unswerving beat, cackling guitars and twangy vocals, the Satellites
do well by rock’s eternal verities.
The Del-Fuegos, who opened, seemed to be on the bill to prove that basic rock isn’t simple. From the inept drumming to the singer’s affected growl, the Del-Fuegos sounded like a B-movie parody of a garage band.