Concert Review: Tom Petty’s heartbreaking walk down memory lane
By Ed Masley
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Quite possibly the most consistently inspired American hit machine to rock ‘n’ roll the radio these past few decades, Tom Petty arrived at the Post-Gazette Pavilion last night two years down the road from “Echo,” the Heartbreaker’s latest collection.
And while the crowd of 18,606 was treated to an organ-soaked “Billy the Kid,” Petty wasn’t promoting an album so much as a lifestyle. He and the boys in the band approached the show like rock ‘n’ roll students, disciples and cheerleaders, taking a break from their own amazing catalog to honor a few of the songs that made them what they are today, from Booker T’s “Green Onions” to a gritty take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster” and on to an encore of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Petty’s most obvious hero, Bob Dylan.
And amazingly, they showed the same enthusiasm playing “Refugee” for what was probably the seven millionth time, as though the steady gigging hadn’t gotten any more like work since back when Petty, as he told the crowd, convinced his guitar-playing sidekick Mike Campbell to drop out of school for the sake of the band.
No, it’s not the Sonics or even the Troggs, but the Heartbreakers rocked, with Steve Ferrone mining a groove on the drums that dared you not to shake it during “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and thrashing away at the kit on “Too Much Ain’t Enough” with a force and abandon that made it hard to miss departed drummer Stan Lynch.
Benmont Tench proved every bit as indispensable as ever, surrounded by organ, piano and keys. But Petty’s none-too-secret weapon in the band has always been and always will be Campbell.
Fueled by Campbell squeezing out the first of maybe 20 awe-inspiring solos in a style that’s always focused more emotional content than number of notes, they opened the show with “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” a song that’s always better live than on the record.
And from that point out, the night was living, breathing, sweating testament to Petty’s enduring appeal as a hitmaker, stretching from “Breakdown” to “It’s Good To Be King.” For all the passion Petty showed on newer tunes, he seemed as thrilled as anyone to be reclaiming two lost classics in “Even the Losers’ and “Here Comes My Girl” (with some excellent Petty narration).
An exceedingly gracious Jackson Browne proved an excellent choice of openers on Petty’s part, getting the crowd in the mood with a loud but gently rocking set that, as brief as it was, included such radio favorites as “Somebody’s Baby” and “Boulevard.” “The Pretender” was great, as was a slinky, soulful “World In Motion.”