Petty Saunters Into S.L. For a Nostalgic Party
By Scott Iwasaki
The Deseret News — Friday, August 11, 1995
Celebrating his first bona fide appearance in Salt Lake City, Tom Petty had a party.
The near-capacity crowd sang and danced along to songs taken from a dynamic 20-year career. Petty, dressed in his trademark black-velvet jersey coat, slung his guitar low and sauntered across the stage while the rest of the Heartbreakers – drummer Steve Ferrone, bassist Howie Epstein, keyboardist Benmont Tench, harmonica huffer Scott Thurston and guitarist Mike Campbell – backed him up during an exciting 2½-hour set.
The stage was a shrine as candles flickered their illuminating rays during song-gap blackouts between hits such as “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and “You Wreck Me.”
The psychedelic southern twang of the older “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “I Won’t Back Down” drew screams of approval while kids and parents chanted along to the nostalgic works.
Campbell was at his best, though he did look like a harried Bob Geldoff, and molded solo after solo during the songs’ sharp mixes. Some reverb did bounce off the steel ceiling grids and the mix slopped up at first, but fans took no heed and focused on the stage.
Petty shifted from acoustic to electric guitar with each song. During one of his acoustic moods, he strummed out the clean, mellow introduction to “Free Fallin.’ ” Then with the spontaneity of a hyperactive child, Petty boyishly plowed into a brand-new, electric, hyper-jangle song called “Driving Down to Georgia.” The spiraling guitars and double-time rhythms framed Petty’s spoken guided tour through the peach orchards of the south.
An acoustic set included Ferrone tapping out beats on a mounted tambourine while Campbell and the boys strummed or plinked out intricate harmonies and backups.
Spot and strobe lights were mounted on movable columns that rose and dropped during the songs. With the candle flames tossing animated shadows on the bed-sheet backdrop, Petty dedicated a touching rendition of “Learning To Fly” to the late Grateful Dead founder, Jerry Garcia. “The Waiting” from the album “Hard Promises” took on new life as an acoustic tune while Petty strutted the stage and playfully sneered at the front row. The back-porch country music of “Drug-related Love Song” capped Petty’s humor before the band stomped into the emotional “It’s Good to Be King.”
The 1979 hit “Refugee” took the center by storm. While some of the younger fans didn’t recognize the power-chord introduction, older Petty veterans latched on every word and note. The punky “Runnin’ Down a Dream” ended the set.
The encore featured the bottom heavy “Honey Bee” and “American Girl.” Petty’s finale was a gentile lullaby – “Goodnight Baby.”
For those who missed opening act Pete Droge – shame, shame. Though Droge sounded a lot like Petty during the early years, he and his band, the Perpetual Sinners, cranked out some good and rootsy blues-rock.
“Northern Bound Train,” “Sunspot Stopwatch,” taken from his debut album “Necktie Second,” and the playful “Happy Just to Be Your Man” – a song which the crowd suggested he subtitle “Wolfgang Amadeus Volkswagen” – displayed Droge’s love for the blues with an underground twist.
The sassy “If You Don’t Love Me, I’ll Kill Myself” from the “Dumb & Dumber” soundtrack ended Droge’s set to a standing ovation.