Review: T.P. doesn’t heartbreak fans
By Mohan Submarmanian
The Jambar — August 10, 1989
The pulse of American rock music is steady and strong thanks to Gainesville, Fla. native Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers. Playing before a near capacity crowd at Blossom Music Center Tuesday night, Petty proved that he is the best American rocker around. Sorry, Bruce.
The show started with “Real Love” from Petty’s new solo album, but it was the classics “American Girl” and “Listen to her Heart,” that christened the evening, launching the crowd into a dancing and singing celebration. Petty kept the crowd moving with a stirring rendition of “Free Fallin’.”
Petty’s latest LP Full Moon Fever, was a solo project featuring only one Heartbreaker on every song, lead guitarist Mike Campbell. Many fans wondered if Petty would tour solo, but Petty eased all worries by telling the crowd, “…these are the wonderful, fabulous Heartbreakers and I’d never leave home without ’em.” The Heartbreakers are: Benmont Tench, keyboards, Stan Lynch on drums, Howie Epstein on bass, and Campbell on lead. Few bands are cohesive as these guys.
Petty got right back to business with two beautiful acoustic renditions of “The Waiting” and “Even the Losers.” The pain and longing of loves won and lost were captured in these two songs.
There were many first time Heartbreaker fans at this concert (I’ve been to four) who were delighted by Petty’s interaction with the audience. It is rare to see a performer like Petty come to a town and say the usual “We’re glad to be here…,” and really mean it.
Since Petty’s close affiliation with fellow Traveling Wilbury Bob Dylan, he has taken on a more political posture in his music. He did that at Blossom with a short message to the crowd concerning the important of our environment. Petty invited the environmental group Greenpeace to accompany the band’s U.S. tour. Petty didn’t preach. He had a message to impart. When it was received, Petty went back to playing music.
As the show progressed Petty told the crowd he is “…learning to behave in public again,” but was bad as he played the quintessential Petty song “Breakdown.” The new single “Won’t Back Down” was well received by the crowd. The numerous “rookie” Petty fans voicing their approval at a familiar song.
Petty pulled some nice surprises during the evening. A swinging piano riff featuring Tench tickling the ivories was a simple salute to the jazz of the 20’s. And to show his diversity, a raucous rendition of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Petty ended the show with “Refugee,” featuring Campbell’s trademark 12-string, and “Runnin Down a Dream.” The encore numbers included the unrecorded and rarely heard “Red Rooster,” a song showing off the bluesy side of the band, and “Jammin’ Me.”
As they left the stage, I knew that rock music in America was alive and well. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are uniquely American. They are rockers who keep a humble attitude about themselves and their music. If you missed this show, they play again on Aug. 24 at A.J. Palumbo Theatre in Pittsburgh. Check them out, you won’t be sorry.