Petty hits right notes in Mansfield
By Peter Noll
The Sun Chronicle — Sunday, June 15, 2008
MANSFIELD – Tom Petty paused between songs, asking for the lights to be shined on the audience so he could get a good look at Saturday night’s sold-out Comcast Center crowd. “You look great out there,” he said.
The veteran rocker had the look of someone who is truly appreciative of the fact that, after all these years, legions of fans are still turning out for his shows. Maybe it’s his humble, sincere demeanor and his gift for entertaining a crowd that keep him so popular.
As he sung in “End of the Line,” the Traveling Wilburys song that followed: “I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.”
Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, struck the right notes through the hit-packed show, slowing down and speeding up, and keeping the enthusiastic crowd engaged. Petty’s unique manner, laid back but never indifferent, enthusiastic but never over the top, makes it possible.
An arsenal of seemingly endless hits doesn’t hurt, either.
The opener, “You Wreck Me,” built slowly, followed by the classics “Mary Jane,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Even the Losers.”
The night’s only obscure song, which he introduced in advance, was “Sweet William,” taken from an EP released in Germany. After that, the favorites kept coming, including “Breakdown,” “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” and an acoustic “Learning to Fly.” “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Refugee” ended the main set, and the encore featured “Running Down a Dream” and “American Girl.”
Commenting on how he first played Boston at the Paradise in 1977, Petty said he and his mates are “never happier” than when playing in these parts. “It’s really like playing for your friends.”
Friends that will keep welcoming him back whenever he wants to stop by, no doubt.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Steve Winwood opened the show, and his set was like a mini-tour of his 40-plus years of making music.
Songs off his new record, “Nine Lives,” blended a variety of genres, including blues, folk and world music, not unlike much of his solo material from the 1980s. “Higher Love,” one of hits from that era, was a crowd pleaser.
But songs from his previous bands were the evening’s real treat, including the Traffic song “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” which proved he can still play a mean guitar, Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and the Spencer Davis Group classics “Gimme Some Lovin” and “I’m a Man.”
The latter numbers showed that despite the years that have passed since he was a teenage soul sensation, his voice still retains much of its power. Winwood, who spent some time on guitar and some time on the keyboards, remains a superior musician.