Petty packs punch with feel-good favorites
By Josh Hertzog
On Milwaukee — July 2, 2005
Determined to show what rock and roll was really about, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with opening act The Black Crowes thundered onto the Marcus Amphitheater stage July 1.
If you like it loud, this was the show for you. Although some fans arrived with earplugs so they wouldn’t go deaf by the show’s end, the true rockers came without them.
Candles adorning the stage provided the psychedelic ambience as The Black Crowes started their Summerfest set list. The screen behind the band added to the feel with groovy colors and patterns.
It was loud lovin’ throughout, and if you enjoy any of The Black Crowes songs, you’d have enjoyed this show, as all the songs seemed like a large rock and roll collage.
Two back-up vocalists, a drummer, a bassist, two guitarists and keyboard/organist supported lead singer Chris Robinson as he belted out lyrics to The Black Crowes best tunes. It was part jam, part rock. This husband to Kate Hudson supplied the shaggy hair, unshaven face and gritty vocals to take us back into the ’70s as fans sporting tie-dyed T-shirts jumped up and down and shook their much-needed-haircut heads.
Incredible guitar solos were prominent during the set, as Robinson would step away from the microphone, put his head down, and let the music move his body. Feeling the flow, Robinson even performed a little jazz scat which heavily entertained the sell-out crowd.
It was a successful performance by The Black Crowes, but not one that will stand out in Summerfest history by any means.
After the standard extended wait before the main act came Mr. Tom Petty and the supporting band known as The Heartbreakers.
Opening with “Listen to Her Heart,” the band immediately proved there was no lollygagging to be had, and rock and roll was their only concern.
Next came “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” easily one of the band’s best songs. The harmonica made the song, and it shined through live. After the large applause following the tune, Petty blew kisses to the crowd.
He called the performance, “The all-American rock-and-roll show,” and he couldn’t have summed it up any better.
The band decided to venture way back and perform “Breakdown,” a song the band hadn’t played live in quite some time. Low lights and a call-and-response from Petty with the crowd made the song stand out among the 19-song set.
Just when the crowd couldn’t ask for much better, “Freefallin'” was performed next. The crowd blew up and couldn’t help but assist Petty with back-up vocals. There wasn’t a person in the amphitheater without a smile on their face.
The band also ventured down the new music road and performed two new songs off of an upcoming album. “Turn This Car Around” was a decent slow song with an edgy refrain, but didn’t really pack the punch Petty usually is known for. But, “Melinda” provided the upbeat and toe-tapping rock that the fans couldn’t get enough of, along with the amazing piano solo during the tune. It slightly had the beat and feel of Dave Matthews Band’s “Two Step.”
As the set continued, Petty proved his determination to rock as they performed “Won’t Back Down” and the title track to their “Wildflowers” album.
Of course, “Last Dance with Mary Jane” had to be played, and for some reason, the air got a bit hazier during the song.
“I’m just havin’ a good time,” Petty says in between songs. Though looking like death himself, he certainly was having fun on stage in his pea green jacket and red scarf that only he could pull off.
He took it down a notch and told the crowd he was “Learning to Fly,” another classic tune that didn’t disappoint, and the band ended the show with “Running Down a Dream,” where guitar solos and crazy fans added up to a one-of-a-kind experience only Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers could provide.
The three-song encore featured “You Wreck Me” and “American Girl.”
But the most fitting encore song for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (aka, “Everybody Must Get Stoned”). The crowd went bonkers.