Concert Review: Petty performance a musical history
By Winda Benedetti
The Spokesman-Review — Wednesday, September 8, 1999
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers | Sunday, September 5, The Gorge Amphitheater
Midway through his show at The Gorge Sunday, Tom Petty told the audience, “The greatest thing in my life is to be here on stage with my old friends The Heartbreakers.”
It was the kind of comment that was obviously genuine and utterly unnecessary. Watching Petty and his band on stage, their love for the craft of rock ‘n’ roll was plenty clear — with or without words.
Sunday was night two of Petty’s two-show stand at the Gorge, and he broke out a victorious string of his hits. These were Americana tales of heartbreak and triumph, told with the gleeful intensity of a band that remains as vital today as it was in the ’70s.
Petty opened the show with the rollicking song “Jammin’ Me,” (a number co-written by Bob Dylan). He moved on to “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and delivered “Free Fallin’.”
As has become tradition, Petty pulled a top hat out of a glowing trunk for “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” It’s a time-tried shtick that he executes with zeal. And the audience loved it.
The Heartbreakers (guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, bassist Howie Epstein, drummer Steve Ferrone and multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston) were tight and top-notch in the execution of their rootsy psychedelic sound. Campbell took over as lead singer for “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” proving himself an “A” student in the Petty/Dylan school of nasal singing.
There were mellower moments to the evening — “Breakdown” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” as well as “It’s Good To Be King” which stretched into a long but not self-indulgent — featuring Campbell on double-necked guitars.
“You wanna sing one with me?” Petty called to the audience, which of course was more than ready. With an acoustic guitar slung around his neck, the blond-haired songwriter strummed along as 16,000 voices sang out, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”
For the most part, however, this show rollicked and rolled full steam ahead, giving the crowd no time to sit down. This was a nonstop tour of the Heartbreakers musical history, with songs that spanned from their 1976 self-titled debut album, to their most recent album “Echo.”
“This is one I always liked because when it first came out it was banned on every radio station in the U.S.,” Petty said of “Listen To Her Heart.” “It was banned because it had a naughty word.”
That word was cocaine.
Petty’s music defies historical categorization in its timeless sound. There was no better proof of that than the hour-long interpretive dance performed by the lanky 20-year-old standing next to me. He was just one of many enthusiastic young fans in this crowd that also defied age categorization.
Opening band The Blind Boys of Alabama played a rousing set of gospel music that sure sounded good to me. Of course, I was standing about a half mile away, waiting in one of the many interminably long lines I would have to wait in just to make it in the front door.
My suggestion to those who attend big shows at The Gorge: Expect it to take a full hour from the time you exit I-90 at George, to the time you finally collapse in your seat. The traffic lines on the back roads, the ticket lines, the lines to get into the portable potties and the lines to get through the gate are not only long, but they move with the speeds of a turtle on tranquilizers.