Concert Review: Tom Petty shows Star Lake crowd it’s good to be ‘king of the road’
By Jeff Yoders
Observer-Reporter — August 28, 1995
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers matched Van Halen’s feat of a month ago, with a sellout crowd of 23,183 at Star Lake Amphitheater. I guess it’s “Good to Be King.”
This was the first stop on the second leg of the band’s Wildflowers tour, with the success of the 52-city first leg under their belts.
Pete Droge and the Perpetual Sinners opened up for Petty. Their folk and country blues sound complemented the headliner well. Droge had a Top 10 hit last year, everyone’s favorite obsessive-compulsive melody from the “Dumb and Dumber” soundtrack, “If You Don’t Love Me, I’ll Kill Myself.” Droge’s best other songs were the similar “Too Good For You,” and “Jerk Like You.” Are you starting to see a pattern develop here? Poor Pete is just a sucker for unrequited love.
The band played most of the songs from Droge’s first album, “Necktie Second,” but they did show a few tracks from the not-yet-released second album. He played “Straylin Street” which mentions Pittsburgh in it. According to Droge, the song actually has these lyrics in it and he doesn’t just insert the name of the town he’s playing at every show. (“I wish they all could be…Pittsburgh…girls.”)
Tom Petty and the 95 version of the Heartbreakers took stage about 8:30 p.m. The played 23 sounds, a long set by anyone’s standards.
“I hope you don’t wanna get home early tonight, cause I’m gonna play a lot of songs,” warned Petty. “If you have to be home early tonight, write a note for your mom and I’ll sign it,” offered one of the world’s best rhythm guitar players.
Petty is seeming more like Bob Dylan with every show. Although he lacks Dylan’s stoicism (Dylan ignores the crowd, Petty chats all night), he proved himself to be just as adept at changing songs on stage.
On “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” Petty swapped “I woke up in between a memory and a dream” for “I woke up in between a mattress and a limousine.” He added a verse of guitar to “Cabin Down Below” as well.
The show was steeped in hits, especially from Petty’s triple-platinum solo album “Wildflowers.” He began and ended with hits and left room in the middle to experiment with unreleased tracks “Lonely Weekends” and “Drivin’ Down to Georgia.” Early in the set, Petty treated fans to “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin'” and “You Wreck Me.” The hits in the middle of his sets were “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Higher Place” and “Learning to Fly.” In the latter stages of the evening, “Cabin Down Below,” “Running Down a Dream,” “Honeybee” and “American Girl” sent fans home with smiles. With such widespread appeal (ticket purchasers seemed evenly divided between the under-25 and over-40 groups), it’s no wonder Rolling Stone magazine named Petty “king of the road.”
Although I questioned his choice of encore, and would have liked to have heard “Girl on LSD,” a B-side from one of Petty’s earlier albums, I must admit that this was one of the increasingly few live shows where fans got exactly what they paid for; the hits, and lots of them. If he continues to please audiences like he did last night, the king of the road will be touring just as long as Dylan has been.