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Rocker Petty takes time getting to highway speed
By Dave Tianen
The Milwaukee Sentinel — Monday, July 10, 1989
Granted, he’d come from someplace hot (Florida) to someplace hotter (Summerfest), but it still took Tom Petty almost 90 minutes to work up a full-tilt boogie Sunday night at the Marcus Amphitheater.
At 8:40, Petty was lying across a piano, looking semi-terminal. At 8:41, he was ripping into the opening chords of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and the amphitheater finally started to jump.
From there, it was into the Georgia Satellite’s “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” and the temperature on the lakefront climbed another 5 degrees.
Until then, the show had been dominated by mid-tempo tunes like “Yer So Bad” and “Free Fallin’.” Those are decent songs. “Free Fallin'” in particular displayed some of Petty’s gift for imagery with its tale of the jilted good girl who loves Jesus, America and Elvis.
Incidentally, one of the few real driving whees in the first half of the show was dedicated to the King, a fine and faithful remake of “Milk Cow Boogie.”
Petty never will make anyone’s list of the 200 most theatrical rockers, but he compensates with songwriting finesse and obvious concern about the big issues.
However, those were not necessarily virtues that set the party on fire. When Petty was introducing “I Won’t Back Down” with an earnest soliloquy on the environment, some guy in the 30th row kept yelling, “Rock ‘n’ roll!”
There were a couple of moments when the crowd almost took over the show. Once Petty let the Heartbreakers linger over the introduction to “Breakdown” and the crowd started to pick up the lyrics. They were halfway through the song before Petty joined in.
Opening with a short set was Paul Cebar and some select Milwaukeeans. Conscripted at the last moment, Cebar seemed to be handling the pressure well. He thanked the crowd for coming out to “Zeldler Festival Park” and then said “We’ve been roped into this, and we’re having a good time.”