Spread your leaves and break my heart
By Kim Yaged
The Michigan Daily — Monday, September 16, 1991
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | The Palace of Auburn Hills | November 12, 1991
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers dressed up the Palace Thursday night like a set for Alice in Wonderland. A budacious tree trunk from which is a winding staircase descended dominated the stage. One of the tree’s limbs extended like an arm, with an appendage at the end looking remarkably like a hand with its middle finger sticking up. Behind the tree hung a movie screen onto which were projected scenic views, landscapes and visuals, while pseudo-crystal chandeliers with electric candles hung above for a finishing touch.
Petty graced the stage in ’90s-style hippie attire, complete with a trendy headband, and began a journey into the great wide open with some newer songs, including “Too Good To Be True” and “Into The Great Wide Open,” from the band’s newest release. Then, Petty worked in some of his solo works with tracks such as “Free Falling,” which he dubbed “one of their better three-chord songs,” and “Won’t Back Down.” Then Petty donned his trademark hat to signal the start of the classic “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” During the musical interlude of this track, performers disguised as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush marched down the stairs of the tree and chased our hero; Petty eventually scared off the rabid Republicans with an oversized peace sign, which he brandished as he ran after the trio.
Innovative scenery was also utilized during the climax of Mike Campbell’s guitar solo, at which point Petty playfully sprung from the tree trunk like the Mad Hatter from his hole; and again when a creature that Petty referred to as the Psychedelic Dragon (draw your own conclusions) paraded down the stairs with a harmonica, delivering it to Petty on a serving plate.
Tom and the crew played to a less than capacity crowd, but from the audience’s reaction, the feel in the arena and the band’s performance, one would never have known it. The music was utterly flawless and the sound superb. Some highlights included a jamming rendition of “American Girl,” during an acoustic session dedicated to the ’70s that rocked. Similarly, a cutting rendition of “Refugee” tore the place up. And an inspired performance of “The Waiting,” during the encore, was magnificent.
At one point Petty told the audience, “If I do this, I gotta have fun.” His honest, toothy grin revealed that he did have fun, and once more, that he appreciated the audience as much as we appreciated him.