CANOE — September 9, 2006

Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto | September 8, 2006 | Rating: 4/5
By Bill Harris
CANOE — September 9, 2006

TORONTO – They may have been around for 30 years, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have not become Tom Petty and the Heart Monitors.

Playing a crisp, heartfelt set at the Molson Amphitheatre last night, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers proved that they have aged very well.

It could have been 1976, or 1986, or 1996 instead of 2006. Whether playing old favourites (like Refugee and I Won’t Back Down), new songs (like Down South and Square One) or more obscure favourites from their personal memory banks (like I’m A Man and Too Much Monkey Business), this is the kind of combo that has a winning sound and doesn’t muck with it.

“You’re getting me all excited,” Petty announced to the adoring throng a few songs into the evening. And despite what could be described as an extremely minor lull in the middle of the proceedings, the feeling was mutual.

Wearing a spiffy sport coat, black shirt and patterned tie, Petty looked every bit the part of a rock legend. He’s 55 years old, but he still has his blond mop-top and distinctive voice working for him.

Petty’s songs never were the type that required Robert Plant-like vocal hystrionics, so Petty can sing them just as well today as he did three decades ago. Some might say even better.

The accoutrements also were spectacular, with crystal-clear screens behind the stage and a light show that showcased what best can be described as giant, multi-coloured dominoes.

This is the third leg of Petty’s tour in support of his recent CD, Highway Companion. It hit the top five in the United States during the summer despite the fact the first single, Saving Grace, made little impact on the singles charts.

Technically, Highway Companion was a Petty solo project — he played almost all of the instruments himself. But on this tour he has been joined by the Heartbreakers (Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Steve Ferrone and Scott Thurston), who through the years have earned their reputation as one of the best backing units in the biz.

Thurston was particularly impressive last night, handling everything from guitar to keyboards to harmonica to Roy Orbison’s soaring vocal part in Handle With Care (originally done by the Traveling Wilburys, of which Petty was a member).

Tom, we’re not sure what you’re paying Thurston, but he deserves a raise.

And put a little something extra for yourself in there, too.

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