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Petty: Singin’, strummin’ and free-fallin’ at Carver
By Steve Cruse
The Daily Iowan — Monday, February 19, 1990
As from Valhalla, Petty gives 2-hour concert
Unless years of touring have addled Tom Petty’s memory, Saturday night’s concert at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was the first time ever that he and The Heartbreakers have played in Iowa.
At least, that’s what Petty told the audience about halfway through the show. To which most people in the crowd would have probably replied: Well, gee, Tom, don’t be a stranger. The show was solid, innovative, and thoroughly enjoyable for both hardcore Petty fans and those who came just to hear the hits.
Taking the stage to “Full Moon Fever”‘s “Love Is a Long Road,” Petty and his band proceeded to plow through two hours of music representative of their career. Nearly all the best-known tunes had their moment: “You Got Lucky” featured a scathing guitar solo, “Free Fallin'” was (surprise) a huge sing-along, and “Refugee” received a strong rendition worthy of its rock-anthem status.
The concert’s highlight, “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” was preceded by a futuristic solo bit by Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench. Backed by projected lava lights, the band launched into the hypnotic, trebly strains of the song that might be described (musically speaking) as Petty’s own “Stairway to Heaven.” Things reached a bizarre, strobe-lit climax during the final minute, when a suit of armor next to the drum set suddenly came to life and began chasing Petty hither and yon around the stage.
Throughout the show, Petty admirably sustained a personal connection with the audience. After leading the fans through an extended “Breakdown” call-and-response (“Who-oa, … Ye-ea-ah … Who-oa”), he applauded gently and smiled as if to say, “Very nice, my fine young friends!” Later he took snapsnots of the crowd, offering the flattering yet vaguely disquieting explanation, “I like to look at these when I get pack home.” It was kind of him, too, to dedicate “I Won’t Back Down” to Iowans in general.
The stage was a pastiche of Valhalla imagery that included hanging velvet curtains, totem poles and a polar bear statue looming in the background. A huge disco ball hung overhead as well, periodically turning the arena into a pleasing swirl of colored lights.
It’s always easy to gripe about the set list, but here goes: I would have perfectly happy not to have heard “Depending On You,” which Petty dedicated “to the children.” Notable omissions, meanwhile, included “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Jammin’ me,” as well as two of the best songs from “Full Moon Fever,” “Feel a Whole a Lot Better” and “Zombie Zoo.”
Overall: About as good a show as one could want.
Oh, yeah — Lenny Kravitz. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by his opening “Flower Child,” which featured a rockin’ piano sound and churning guitar. After that, though, musical homogeneity ruled: Lots of percussive whomp and sax solos and scant melodic content. The hit “Let Love Rule,” which, I swear, I could have written while blindfolded and experimenting with a bass flute, closed out the set with a stomping, interminable community sing. “Don’t you people forget what you’re singin’ when you leave this building,” Kravitz admonished us. Well, I didn’t forget, but then I was taking notes.