Petty thrills Myriad crowd
By Kathy Karr
The Vista — November 14, 1991
Great lighting, great songs, great stage set, great band, great opening act and a great crowd sums up the show put on last Monday at the Myriad by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Petty and the Heartbreakers are on tour in support of their latest release, Into The Great Wide Open, and the band brought a hot show into the convention center. At first the audience was wowed by the incredible stage set-up, which had been kept hidden during the opening performance by oh-so-talented newcomer Chris Whitley.
Dominating the stage was an enormous inflatable tree, elaborately sculptured to resemble a tree in an ancient magical forest. Steps led up into the branches to a door, and behind the tree was a giant screen on which various colorful slides were projected. Chandeliers twinkled all over convention center.
After the audience recovered from the elaborate detail put into the set, lights and sound, they got hyped up and joined Petty in a musical journey.
The crowd, which had been appreciative but quiet during Whitley’s performance, responded enthusiastically to Petty’s charming presence, as he grinned, waved, and played the audience for all they were worth.
Contrary to rumors circulating that the Heartbreakers had put most of the old songs to bed, Petty pulled out “Breakdown,” “Refugee,” and “The Waiting,” along with other oldies and Petty’s solo tunes.
During the old tunes it was audience participation time as the crowd joined on the choruses of “Free Fallin'” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”
During “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” as the song slammed into the fast jam at the end, three roadies came out of the magic tree dresses in suits and wearing Reagan, Nixon and Bush masks. They chased Petty around the stage as the lights strobed, making the entire scene surreal and eerie. Petty escaped into the tree, returning with a giant fluorescent peace sign that he used to exorcise the Republican demons off of the stage.
Petty kept the show rolling, and there wasn’t a slow moment during the entire performance. All the Heartbreakers were hot, especially keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell.
The band left the stage after an hour and a half show, returning after the crowd thunderously demanded an encore.
Whitley brought blues guitar to life as the opening act, and the fact that he was a huge babe didn’t hurt either. He played tunes from his latest and only album, Living With the Law, along with a couple of new tines, one entitled “Complex Sex Ritual.” Whitley kept the songs short, sweet and rockin’, a perfect performance for an opening act.
It was a great show at a great price, and as the exhausted crowd left the Myriad smelling of beer and marijuana, they could be sure they had gotten their money’s worth. They had been treated to a visual holocaust, and had just seen the best show to hit the city in a long, long, time.