Petty And The Heartbreakers Pump It Up After Slow Start
By Parry Gettelman
Orlando Sentinel — October 26, 1991
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers weren’t at their absolute fieriest at the Orlando Arena Friday night. Fortunately, even a lesser Heartbreakers show is better than most band’s best.
The Heartbreakers have set a high standard for themselves, especially with their last show at the arena. Curiously, the group seemed to have more zest when it was touring behind Petty’s solo album, rather than a true Heartbreakers release. (Full Moon Fever did have stronger songs than the current Into the Great Wide Open.)
Petty got the concert off to a relatively low-key start with two new songs, “Kings Highway” and “Too Good to Be True.” The resolute “I Won’t Back Down,” from Full Moon Fever, got the near-sellout crowd going, but the band’s generators didn’t kick into full power until the the hard-rocking “Out in the Cold,” the best of the new songs.
One factor may have been the extra hand on deck – a musician filling in the sound with a little keyboards, a little guitar and a little bass. Maybe the sixth man threw the chemistry off a little.
The main problem was the somewhat quirky pacing at the show’s outset. Just after the band had raised the energy, there was an interruption for the entrance of a tall person wearing a dragon head mask, whom Petty introduced as “the psychedelic dragon.” The dragon emerged from a door at the top of the giant “magic tree” that was the centerpiece of the stunning set and came down the staircase that curved around its trunk to deliver a harmonica. Cute, but it slowed things down considerably at an early juncture.
Things started to pick up again as drummer Stan Lynch sang a terrific cover of the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” with Petty accompanying him on harmonica and guitarist Mike Campbell providing plenty of the requisite psychosis. But some fans’ attention began to wander during two instrumentals – Tench’s nifty boogie-woogie number and Campbell’s surprisingly gimmicky multi-guitar piece.
It was a relief when Petty returned and the band launched into “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” This time the dramatics were worked into the song – during the instrumental section, caricatures of Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Bush chased Petty up the stairs of the magic tree, and he warded them off with a giant peace symbol.
After that, the show continued to build as it should. The new “Learning to Fly” and “Into the Great Wide Open” sounded tougher than on the album – “Fly” had one of Campbell’s grittiest solos.
Older songs such as “Listen to Her Heart,” “You Got Lucky,” “American Girl,” “Refugee” and the sing-along “Breakdown” were even stronger. “You’re So Bad,” from the solo album, was one of the best of the evening, with Petty on acoustic guitar and Campbell on mandolin.