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Tom Petty works up an appetite for rock
By Pete Bishop
The Pittsburgh Press — Tuesday, June 23, 1987
Tom Petty once described the music he and the Heartbreakers make as “meat and potatoes” rock, and that quintet and two other bands proved at the Civic Arena last night it can be both filling and tasty.
How tasty? Start with the capable, competent Del Fuegos, who pumped out basic song with few aural fireworks and scored with “Name Names,” “Hand in Hand,” enhanced by sideman Jim Spake’s honking sax; near-ballad “I Still Want You,” and dirge-like “He Had a Lot To Drink Today,” an off choice fro a nine-number set, but all instruments sounding appropriately sozzled to match the sorry subject.
On the flip side, Dan Zanes simply isn’t a funky soul man. Coupled with his thick-throated, murky-toned, almost regurgitating voice, it made “Wear It Like a Cape” a loser. And they had very little audience rapport. Even in 37 minutes onstage you can try.
The Georgia Satellites did and were the better for it. Singer-guitarist Dan Baird was as snappy a frontman as the Southern roadhouse seasoning with which they flavored two-chord “Battleship Chains,” a hot rendition of Chuck Berry’s “School Days” and rip-snorters “Can’t Stand the Pain” and “Railroad Steel.”
And “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” Of course “Keep Your Hands To Yourself,” the best thing to happen to Top-40 radio since every talentless twerp in the world discovered what fun it is to twiddle synthesizer dials.
Petty and the Heartbreakers began weakly with slow, slinky “Breakdown.” It’s not a bad number, but it’s not as rousing a set-starter as far livelier second song “Think About Me” would have been.
“My Life Your World” and “Runaway Trains” also dragged, but those were the only low spots. The rest of their 1 3/4 hours were solid rock ‘n’ roll, an astute blend of old and new songs beneath the biggest light show they’ve ever sported and punctuated with other people’s oldies “For What It’s Worth” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” and a far more chatty, personable Petty.
“Think About Me,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Listen To Her Heart,” “Even the losers,” “Refugee,” and a rowdy rendition of “Jammin’ Me,” full of snort to match the angry cry in the lyrics, were among the winners.
Worth special mention were plaintive, poignant “It’ll All Work Out” with Mike Campbell’s mandolin work, “The Waiting,” begun with Petty’s voice, acoustic guitar, and fan chorus before becoming full-group, and “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” musically fuller with more piano and softer vocal harmony and far prettier than the original.
As Petty said while telling the audience about the May 17 fire at his home, “Whoever did it, you didn’t get me ’cause you didn’t get this.” And he held up his guitar and started “The Waiting.”
Indeed they didn’t get him, and we should be doubly grateful. The entire show ran 3 hours and 38 minutes, only 40 minutes of which was set-changing. This is the way a three-act concert should be run and superb value for ticket dollars. Bravo to all concerned, and more’s the pity that only 5,400 fans took advantage of it.