Petty and His Heartbreakers Deliver No-Frills Classic Rock
By Frank Scheck
The Christian Science Monitor — March 27, 1995
NEW YORK | TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS | At Madison Square Garden
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is one durable group: It released its first album nearly two decades ago (for a rock band, that’s more like two centuries). Petty, with and without the Heartbreakers, is still making great music, as is evidenced by his recent album “Wildflowers.” The record is officially a solo effort, but most of the band plays on it. The group is currently on a nationwide sold-out concert tour, which continues throughout the summer, playing in outdoor arenas and amphitheaters.
The musician began his New York show with “I’m Tom Petty, and these are the Heartbreakers” — a standard introduction that seems unnecessary, but its modesty befits a performer who has been writing and recording great rock songs, without flashiness or scandal, for as long as he has.
Dressed in black jeans and sneakers, and sporting a scraggly beard, Petty proceeded to lead the band through two hours of great music, including a dozen familiar hits and numerous songs from the new release.
Petty’s recorded voice can become a bit of a drone, but in concert the music takes on a greater urgency, and his vocals take a back seat to the amazing instrumental work.
His music, a model of classic guitar-based folk-rock inspired by the Byrds and the Beach Boys, has the kind of tight structure and hooks that make the songs immediately recognizable. When he began “I Won’t Back Down,” the audience roared its approval with the first guitar chord.
“Wildflowers” is perhaps Petty’s quietest, most ruminative album to date, and that material particularly benefited from the punchier concert versions. Unlike Bob Dylan, Petty does not dramatically change the arrangements or tempos of the songs, but he adds flourishes: “Last Dance With Mary Jane” featured an extended blues jam.