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Petty’s ‘Caravan’ a winner at Blossom
By Julie Fanselow Swetye
Youngstown Vindicator — Wednesday, June 24, 1987
OK, I’ll admit I arrived Tuesday at Blossom Music Center fully expecting one of the best concerts of the year. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were slated for the only Ohio stop on their tour, and they were bringing along two of the nation’s hottest new bands, Georgia Satellites and Del Fuegos.
I was not disappointed. In fact, the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Caravan ’87” show, as the triple-header was billed, turned out to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Petty, whose sound was muddled last July in an Akron Rubber Bowl concert backing Bob Dylan, rang loud and clear this time around. He bared his soul via his songs and he offered a piece of his mind via several lengthy treatises on the current state of America.
“We play a game called ‘Who Do You Trust?'” Petty told the audience of more than 15,000. He asked the fans, most of whom were in their mid-20s, which of these people and institutions they thought they could trust: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Jerry Falwell, Mikhail Gorbachev, the CIA, the PTL and on and on. (It almost got to sounding like the chorus from the Beatles’ “Dig It.”)
Each name was met with a chorus of boos from the audience, although Gorbachev, interestingly, rated less of a heckling than the others. At the end of the list, Petty said, “The only way to win that game is to trust yourself,” and led his band into Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 anthem, “For What It’s Worth.”
Petty, obviously in a gregarious mood, followed that song with an apology for being “so political. But,” he said, “we got money for bombs but we ain’t got money to feed people.”
He then talked about the May fire that destroyed his California home. “I wonder what was in the mind of the person who burned my home to the ground,” Petty mused. He noted how he’s now realized the positive effects of the tragedy. “I’m glad to be alive, number one,” he said. “You realize possessions — you’ve heard it all your life — they ain’t nothing.”
But, he said, the fire didn’t claim his oldest guitar, holding up his favorite Rickenbacker for the cheering audience: “You didn’t get me, ’cause you didn’t get this.” Petty then strummed and sang “The Waiting” on stage alone, just as he did last year at the Rubber Bowl. And just as it was last summer, the song was magic.
This was the kind of show that had so many highlights that it was easy to lose count. Petty’s warmth toward the crowd was an added bonus. All told, he and the Heartbreakers played 19 songs in a set lasting about two hours. Starting suspiciously with one of the band’s biggest bits, “Breakdown,” the group offered a generous sampling of old and new songs.
A few of the newest from the band’s “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)” album were among the best. Few people could help but dance to the bouncy “Think About Me” and the album’s first single — “Jammin’ Me,” written with Dylan — had the joint jumping.
As usual, the Heartbreakers were in fine form. Mike Campbell’s guitar playing was superb; he also took a turn on mandolin on the new love song, “It’ll All Work Out.” Keyboard player Benmont Tench was spotlighted on a number of songs, including “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”
Drummer Stan Lynch was excellent on a cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” Bass player Howie Epstein added many fine backing vocals to his anchor duties.
The Heartbreakers’ lights deserver special mention, for they were among the best I’ve ever seen. Clear Christmas-tree-like bulbs were strung from the stage to the rear of the pavilion and gave the place a carnival feel. They first were turned on during “Here Comes My Girl,” augmented by song’s end with the banks of colored lamps onstage. It sure was pretty.
Preceding Petty to the stage was Georgia Satellites, a loud ‘n’ proud band from the South that rocked Blossom to the rafters. The group, making its second northeast Ohio appearance this year, wowed the crowd with a scorching, all-too-short 40-minute set.
With a “Caution: Men Drinking” sign posted behind them, their guitars plugged into nasty-looking, beat-up Marshall amplifiers, the Satellites kicked out the jams on eight songs, each tune a winner.
The best song of the set was “Battleship Chains,” a number that must drive the Rolling Stones insane with jealousy, for the Georgia Satellites now sound like the Stones did around, say, the “Sticky Fingers” days.
Another crowd-pleaser was the hit “Keep Your Hands To Yourself.” Lead singer Dan Baird (who doesn’t look quite as much like Jim Morrison live as he does in his photos) told the crowd, “If you wanna holler along, that’ll make me real happy.” Just about everyone obliged.
The show was opened by the Boston-based Del Fuegos. I saw the group early in 1984 at one of its first gigs in a New York City club, and I remember being impressed. But somehow, the young quartet’s charm and garage-rock sensibilities aren’t yet translating to venues of Blossom’s size.
The live versions of the group’s best known songs were performed with mixed results. “I Still Want You” sounded even better than on the record, while “Don’t Run Wild” fell short. The Del Fuegos’ set wasn’t that bad, overall, but it sure was overwhelmed.