Tom Petty delivers strong performance in Glendale
By Larry Rodgers
The Arizona Republic — August 21, 2008
After playing for a global television audience of a couple hundred million in Glendale at February’s Super Bowl XLII, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers returned to the city Wednesday night to show why they had been picked for the high-profile NFL gig.
As longtime fans have come to expect, Petty and his band delivered yet another close-to-flawless performance for about 15,000 at Jobing.com Arena.
With no new album to promote, Petty staged a greatest-hits show, with a few lower-profile selections thrown in to satisfy repeat customers.
Petty front-loaded his two-hour set with crowd-pleasers, opening with You Wreck Me, required listening for anyone trying to play garage rock. Then came solid versions of Listen To Her Heart and I Won’t Back Down, sounding very close to the original album cuts.
Early on, guitarist extraordinaire Mike Campbell, whom Petty called “the co-captain” of the Heartreakers, was reined in, playing most leads nearly note-for-note to match the studio versions.
However, as the show progressed, Campbell was able to stretch and unleash some amazing leads on tracks like Honey Bee, Refugee and Don’t Come Around Here No More.
Petty and his band did a nice job of transforming Don’t Come Around Here No More from a satisfying mix of keyboards and synthesized sitar early on into a raging rocker amid overpowering strobe lights at the end. (Along the way, Campbell even sneaked in a nod to the ancient pop hit Angel of the Morning.)
It was interesting that Petty, 57, included two of his biggest anthems, I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’, in the show’s opening five numbers. But his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame catalog also offered plenty of other classics for later.
Wearing a dark, embroidered jacket, the bearded Petty encountered one of his few weak points during the show’s fourth song, Even The Losers, from his 1979 Damn The Torpedoes album. It may have been due to faulty guitar tuning, but his vocals seemed a half-step flat during the first half of the song.
The only other chink in the star’s armor came during End of the Line, a song Petty recorded in 1988 with the Traveling Wilburys, which also included the late George Harrison and Roy Orbison , as well as Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne. (Petty poignantly dedicated the tune to “all Wilburys, wherever they may be traveling.”)
Petty’s vocals were a tad weak as he stretched to cover some of the parts originally sung by other Wilburys. Guitarist Scott Thurston did a spot-on imitation of Harrison’s vocals.
But for 99 percent of the performance, Petty effortlessly showed why he remains one of rock’s preeminent performers. He played more guitar leads than he had on past visits to the Valley, stepping forward for gritty solos on Mary Jane’s Last Dance and Honey Bee. Petty played a Byrds-like solo early in Saving Grace, from 2006’s Highway Companion CD, before trading rocking riffs with Campbell later in the song.
Benmont Tench, one of rock’s strongest keyboard players, stood out during 1989’s A Face in the Crowd and 1991’s Learning to Fly. Petty reworked the second song as a gentle number built on acoustic guitar, piano, Ron Blair’s bass and Campbell’s mandolin. (Standout drummer Steve Ferone took a break.) Near the end, Petty engaged in some give-and-take with the audience, which filled the arena by singing the chorus.
One of the evening’s more fun moments came during the encore, when Petty put his stamp on the garage-rock staple, Gloria. He cracked the crowd up by telling a story in the middle of the song about being turned away by a girl when he was young because of his long hair, strange clothes and because “you smell like marijuana.” She changes her mind when she learns he’s in a rock band.
Also in the encore were two classics that Petty is pretty much required to play nightly, Runnin’ Down a Dream and American Girl.
Steve Winwood, an alumnus of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith, opened the show with an enjoyable set mixing older hits and selections from his new album, Nine Lives.
Backed by a quartet that included longtime collaborator Jose Neto on guitar and Britain’s Paul Booth on flute and saxophone, Winwood alternated between the old-school organ that he manned with Davis and the electric guitar he frequently played in later projects.
At 60, the English-born Winwood still has full command of both instruments, as well as the high vocals that have been a trademark.
His performances of the new material were well-received.
The rootsy Secrets moved on congas by Karl Vanden Bossche and drums by Richard Bailey, and the funky Hungry Man featured a jazzy sax solo and guitar riffs by Bailey seemingly inspired by the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
Winwood played a brash guitar solo on Dirty City and an extended lead on one of Traffic’s biggest hits, Dear Mr. Fantasy.
The folk-rock of Can’t Find My Way Home, from the short-lived Blind Faith, proved to be an audience favorite, as did a brisk version of the chart-topping 1986 song Higher Love. Winwood had the crowd on its feet with two of his ’60s Spencer Davis Group rave-ups, I’m a Man and the set-ending Gimme Some Lovin’.
Tom Petty set list:
You Wreck Me
Listen To Her Heart
I Won’t Back Down
Even the Losers
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
End of the Line
A Face In the Crowd
Learning to Fly
Don’t Come Around Here No More
Runnin’ Down a Dream