Concert Review: Petty, Allmans play rock ‘n’ roll fit for a king
By Scott Mervis
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Thursday, August 17, 2006
It’s good to be king, sure, but Wednesday night at the Post-Gazette Pavilion, it seemed even better to be Tom Petty.
The legendary rocker arrived on his triumphant 30th-anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers to find what looked like 800,000 people on the great lawn and the air so thick with adoration he was almost speechless.
Petty headlined the classic rock event of the summer, topping a bill that also included the Allman Brothers. Topping the Allmans is no small feat, as Greg is fielding two of the finest rock guitarists in the world: Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.
In an awe-inspiring display of steamy Southern blues and soul, the big dog and the little pup were repeatedly let loose on the songs, Trucks taking the first solo in his more lyrical manner and then Haynes stepping in to breathe fire.
Allman, seated at the keyboards and looking like a face on Mount Rushmore, has only gotten better with age, adding more authority to staples like “Statesboro Blues,” “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and the show-stopping “One Way Out.” Haynes, no slouch at the mike, was in a cover mood, offering his own grinding takes on “Into the Mystic” and “The Weight.”
The instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” was a religious experience with guitars. As if the sound wasn’t big enough, with all those guitars and drums, the Allmans brought up a gaggle of Heartbreakers for “Southbound,” including guitarist Mike Campbell, who was thrown to the dogs having to stand next to Haynes and Trucks.
Following the Allmans would be unthinkable for most bands, but Petty is, after all, the man who wrote “I Won’t Back Down.” He also wrote a dozen other hits and countless radio tracks that have resonated on the airwaves for three decades. He delivered a good handful of them Wednesday night to a crowd that may have broken the non-Buffett beer sales record and was determined, to his delight, to sing as loudly as he did.
You will never see a band that makes it look as effortless and sound as seamless as Petty and the Heartbreakers. The guitars rang out with perfection, the rhythms were tight, the harmonies were all in place (kudos to Scott Thurston), and Petty, still looking young and cool with the blond hair and velvet jacket, sings those songs like the day he wrote them.
His bluesy new single, “Saving Grace,” sounded like a winner alongside hits like “Listen to Her Heart,” “Free Fallin,’ ” “Refugee” and “American Girl.”
Paying tribute to the band’s early influences, the Heartbreakers reached back not to the Byrds, but the Yardbirds, stomping through “I’m a Man” and then launching into an electrifying version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” with Petty, on maracas, pulling off Jagger-esque moves. (Speaking of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks did not make the trip here.)
As for “Good to be King,” it showed how deep the talent runs in the Heartbreakers. It was their moment to stretch out, and taking an amazingly moody and seductive solo was none other than Petty himself.
Whether it was bouncing through the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care” or slowing it down for a menacing “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” Petty and the Heartbreakers were in full command.
After 30 years, they have this rock ‘n’ roll thing down.