Tom Petty Tour A Treat
By Roger Catlin
Hartford Courant — September 20, 1991
If there was any tension the last time Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers went out on tour, it was because Petty was enjoying the greatest success of his career due to his first solo album recorded without his band, which was nonetheless hired to help him out live.
Compared to that, this year’s tour, which stopped at the Hartford Civic Center Thursday, is an absolute love-in. That was fitting with the trappings of ’60s psychedelia, from the light show in the background to the thick headband on Petty’s noggin.
A relaxed and effusive Petty (his stage fright is also apparently a thing of the past), spent lots of time introducing his fellow band members, with whom he was celebrating his 15th year. Drummer Stan Lynch got in the spotlight by singing the old Count Five garage rock classic “Psychotic Reaction.” Keyboardist Benmont Tench got to show off his boogie woogie piano prowess. Lead guitarist and MVP Mike Campbell was able to stage a solo that was truly innovative, involving three guitars, two repeating phrases through an echo effect.
And the band got to sound fuller through the addition of a guest Heartbreaker on this tour — Scott Thurston, the Jackson Browne sideman and producer, who handled keyboards, guitar and bass to allow bassist Howie Epstein, for example, to play another acoustic guitar instead.
The extra guitar on many songs only served to add rhythmic joy to songs that were already strongly written. Although he played seven of the 12 songs on his latest “Into the Great Wide Open” album, they all sounded fine amid the older favorites, of which hw has so many now. He could dismiss his oldest concert-pleaser, “Breakdown,” right after the first chorus.
Taking a cue from TV show “Unplugged,” he did acoustic versions of a couple of other older songs, “Listen to Her Heart” and “American Girl.” And he played one of Van Morrison’s more obscure tunes, “I’m Tired Joey Boy,” before blasting into “Yer So Bad.” On a set that resembled the surreal lodge from the last tour (only this time in a treehouse), Petty brought some playful stagecraft, especially to “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” As fun as the show began, its pace began to slow as the expected songs brought the close of the two-hour show. But it was a strong show, one well-deserving of more than the paltry audience (with the second deck of seats nearly empty).
Chris Whitley started the show decently enough, with a set that gave up on atmosphere what it made up in bite.
The songlist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was: King’s Highway, Too Good to Be True, I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’, Out in the Cold, Psychotic Reaction, Don’t Come Around Here No More, Learning to Fly, Listen to Her Heart, American Girl, Breakdown, Into the Great Wide Open, I’m Tired Joey Boy, Yer So Bad, You Got Lucky, Love is a Long Road, Refugee, Runnin’ Down a Dream, (encore) The Waiting, Built to Last, Makin’ Some Noise.