OffBeat — December 1991

Editor’s Note: The concert listed was actually on October 29.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | UNO Lakefront Arena | October 25, 1991
By Keith Spera
OffBeat — December 1991

He didn’t come right out and say it, but if Tom Petty had had to sum up his attitude about being onstage, it would probably have been along the lines of “Aw, shucks, guys, this really is fun.” After swinging into the set with a pair of lesser-known cuts from the Heartbreakers’ latest album, the crowd got its first big charge from what Petty called “my favorite three-chord song”: “Free Fallin’,'” from his 1989 solo album. Throughout the two hour show, the catch phrases that mark Petty’s recent work—”and I won’t back down,” ‘I’m learnin’ to fly/but I ain’t got wings,” “… a rebel without a clue,” etc.—lent themselves easily to arena sing-a-longs. And if the Heartbreakers resented having to showcase Petty’s solo material—and endure its enthusiastic reception— they didn’t show it; the musicians attacked this material with the same vigor as their own.

Petty was careful to grant each player a moment in the spotlight (drummer Stan Lynch even handled lead vocals on “Psychotic Reaction”). Mike Campbell soloed on a pair of guitars, and contributed excellent slide work throughout the show, as well as quite a bit of mandolin. The set favored later material; “American Girl” and other oldies were reduced to an acoustic medley in the encores. The Heartbreakers had an elaborate southern-accents-meets-the-psychedelic-forest set on which to frolic: chandeliers and candelabras mingled with a huge, Keebler-esque tree. Petty even tossed in a bit of schtick, when he fended off caricatures of Nixon, Reagan and Bush with a huge peace symbol. A cute touch, but the music was plenty.

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