Rolling Stone #257 — January 26, 1978

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Riveria Theater, Chicago | December 2nd, 1977
By John Milward
Rolling Stone #257 — January 26, 1978

Before their set, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers treated their audience to a tape of unreleased Rolling Stones songs culled from the Stones’ early years. The choice was appropiate, as the Heartbreakers owe much to the unruly rock & rollers of the first wave. Although the quality of Petty’s songs prevents him from being labeled a throwback, it is his commitment to a Sixties goal, to take the big beat and make it bigger, that really defines his music.

Headlining a show opened by Elvis Costello, Petty and the Heartbreakers performed with the calculated polish that marked late-Sixties rock. The band is anchored around Stan Lynch’s steady drumming and Mike Campbell’s wrought lead guitar work. Campbell’s polished lead lines almost charged ahead of cuts like “Breakdown” and gave the band a sense of electric foreboding.

In the midst of a concert that added three new songs to the repertoire of Petty’s first album, the Heartbreakers did a letter-pefect version of the Animals’ “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Written by Goffin-King, made famous by British rockers and now reinterpreted by a New Wave Yankee band, that song illustrated perfectly the chain of influences that determines Petty’s own songwriting.

Petty’s “American Girl” sounds more like the Byrds than Roger McGuinn’s own version. Of the new songs, the hard-rocking “Dog on the Run” is the strongest, with an especially dramatic Campbell solo over the dynamic rhythm section.

Petty has learned much from a year of touring: his tough-guy stares are now backed not only by stone-hard songs but also by his band’s confidence. His calls to the audience to make noise were strained (as such pleas inevitably are), but during his encore, the Isley’s “Shout,” he didn’t have to ask the audience for anything. They answered gladly and loudly.

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