Billboard — October 12, 1991

Artists In Concert
Review by Carlo Wolff
Billboard — October 12, 1991

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS | CHRIS WHITLEY | Blossom Music Center | Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers delivered a show of superb craft and staging nine days into a three-month tour, but opener Chris Whitley stole a bit of Petty’s thunder at this Sept. 13 concert.

Augmented by Los Angeles keyboardist Scott Thurston, Petty’s group worked 13,700 fans with an hour and 45 minutes of well-drawled, immaculately played hard rock.

The the kineticism of the set — a daffy blend of enchanted forest and turn-of-the-century ballroom — was missing from the show itself.

Petty and his dedicated gang were somewhat static despite a stirring playlist spanning the Beatlesque pop of “Learning to Fly,” the dark, knowing title track of their new MCA album, “Into The Great Wide Open,” and the psychedelic “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

Petty’s voice was strong, his kibitzing easy, his manner natural. The band played well, particularly on material from the new album. Drummer Stan Lynch’s tough vocal on the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction” proved Petty and his boys still know how to rock, and Petty’s reverent reading of Van Morrison’s “I’m Tired, Joey Boy” showed the band can be downright tender.

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” was excitingly theatrical, but “Refugee” was marred by excessive dramatics. Overall, the show seemed more ’70s than Petty’s own later material itself.

Armed with a battery of guitars and provocative, subversive songs, 31-year-old Chris Whitley and a dedicated rhythm section (including producer Malcolm Burn on keyboards) surprised the crowd with a sexy, enigmatic set.

The highlights were the wide-screen “Big Sky Country,” the bluesy “Phone Call From Leavenworth” (delivered solo on Whitley’s trademark National steel guitar), and the hard-rocking, unrecorded “Complex Sex Ritual.”

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