Very much alive, Petty pleases with old favorites, new tunes
By Emily Russin
The Seattle Times — Monday, November 11, 2002
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | With Jackson Browne | Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
Although many Web sites insist that Tom Petty is dead, the 52-year-old singer looked and sounded very much alive at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday night.
The 2001 Music Hall of Fame inductee with the butter-blond tresses unleashed the soulful nasal twang that’s stood the test of time over more than a dozen albums. Playing to a howling, Bic-wielding crowd that remained on its feet for 2½ hours and for more than 20 songs, Petty and his band spanned more than three decades.
Petty and the Heartbreakers released their latest album, “The Last DJ,” in October, the first group effort since the middling success of “Echo” in 1999.
The night began with the title track from “DJ,” a controversial song that could be read as an indictment of the music industry but, as the singer himself explained, is really about the scourge of corporate America through a particular lens.
“We’re really proud to say we’re here on this tour with no corporate sponsors whatsoever,” Petty said midshow to supportive cheers. “Corporate America takes everything away, but they can’t take away your right to say, ‘I won’t do that,’ and they can’t take away your right to dream.”
The set also featured familiar hits like “Refugee” from 1979’s “Damn the Torpedoes;” “The Waiting” and “Woman in Love” from 1981’s “Hard Promises” and a smattering of songs from his successful solo album “Full Moon Fever” (1989), including “Free Fallin’,” “Yer So Bad,” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
The encores ranged from a guitar-driven Chuck Berry cover to, appropriately, 1993’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and a resulting jam session that no one wanted to end. The bleachers rumbled from stomping feet until the lights finally went out.
That Petty’s newest work blends seamlessly with his older hits is a testament to his longtime band’s musicianship and his own consistent rock ‘n’ roll sound, which takes a few cues from Southern-fried country and a few more from folk and even garage rock.
With a voice reminiscent of Bob Dylan or Neil Young, depending on the song, Petty’s strength is his straightforward presence.
He’s just a guy with great hair, a guitar and a timeless sound. And, at 52, he sure makes a solid case for aging gracefully in a business that hungers for fresh, young superstars.
Opening for Petty was Jackson Browne, the laid-back California icon whose sensitive-guy songwriting drove such familiar tunes as “On the Boulevard” and “Running on Empty” to the top of the charts in the late 1970s. His 13th album, “The Naked Ride Home,” came out this year.