Petty wins over crowd with classic hits
By Larry Rodgers
The Arizona Republic — February 4, 2008
Classic rocker Tom Petty listened to his heart and staged an anthem-filled halftime show that had smiling fans singing along at Super Bowl XLII.
Performing on a lighted red stage shaped like the logo used by his band, the Heartbreakers – a heart pierced by a Flying V guitar – Petty stuck to recognizable hits from the first half of his 32-year career.
The show was more low-key than last year’s acclaimed set by Prince, and most fans stayed in their seats at halftime to take in Petty’s classics.
Surrounded on the field by 1,000 fans who’d been recruited to cheer during his 12-minute set, Petty launched things with one of his most famous tunes, American Girl. The 1976 song is quintessential American rock and roll, fitting for a football game watched by nearly 100 million in the United States.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer then played I Won’t Back Down, the first of three songs from his popular 1989 solo album, Ful l Moon Fever.
The blond, bearded singer, guitarist Mike Campbell and their bandmates moved into Petty’s biggest rock anthem, the power ballad Free Fall in’. A blue outline around the stage and the fans’ flashlights provided a mellow glow to match the song’s vibes.
Petty wrapped up the show with Runnin’ Down a Dream, a fierce rocker used by the NFL to promote the Super Bowl. Purple, bottle-rocket-style fireworks shot across the field, almost into the stands, and screens behind the band showed rushing highway scenes.
The 71,101 fans in the stands were given flashlights to turn on at certain moments during Petty’s show, staged with the stadium’s roof closed and the lights turned down.
The music was partially pre-recorded, but Petty’s vocals and some of the instrumental was live.
The quality of the sound for the slightly abbreviated songs was good.
Hundreds of volunteers helped set up the 20 pieces making up the elaborate stage. The gear was all wheeled in from a staging area near one end of the stadium. The volunteers had six minutes to set up the stage and elaborate lighting and sound equipment.