Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are still rocking after 15 years
By David Whittaker
Round Up — Friday, November 8, 1991
Wednesday night at the Pan American Center, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers proved that rock and roll is still alive.
Performing on a massive stage set that had a giant inflatable tree, complete with a stairwell and a door, a suit of armor and chandelier over the crowd, Petty and the band performed a hit-filed set that sustained the audiences interest throughout.
Celebrating 15 years together, the Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell on guitars and mandolin, Stan Lynch on drums, Benchmont Tench on keyboards and bassist/acoustic guitarist Howie Epstein, showed that the passage of time has not distinguished their fire on stage. The band was as tight as a wet suit on a Sports Illustrated cover girl. There were no signs of road wear on the band.
For such straight-ahead rockers, the group put on a surprisingly theatric show. Besides the tree set, various characters appeared on stage during the show. At one point in the show, a psychedelic dragon walked down the tree steps and delivered a “psychedelic harmonica” to Petty on a silver platter. Petty carried this bit of theatrics too far and it ended up being hokey.
After opening with a couple songs off their latest release, Into the Great Wide Open, the hits started coming. “Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin'” were played back-to-back and inspired audience sing-alongs.
Petty turned the vocals over to Lynch for a rousing version of the Count Five’s 60’s classic, “Psychotic Reaction.” Tench and Campbell also performed solo spots which led into the Petty classic, “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” During the song’s close, roadies with Nixon, Reagan and Bush masks came out on stage. Petty chased them off with a gigantic peace symbol while the crowd cheered.
After the song, Petty made a statement supporting peace and encouraged the crowd to check out the Greenpeace booth set up at the arena.
Just about every hit was played during the show. “American Girl” and “Breakdown,” which had been omitted from other shows on the tour, were played in a subdued manner, but the crowd did not seem to mind. “You Got Lucky” complete with an excellent twangy tremeloed solo by Campbell, “Learning to Fly,” “Refugee” and the set closing “Running Down a Dream” met with thunderous applause from the estimated 6,000 crowd members.
After a long wait, Petty and the band encored with, appropriately, “The Waiting” and “Making Some Noise.” If the concert was any indication, Petty and the Heartbreakers will continue to make some noise in the future.