Winnipeg Free Press — June 20, 2010

Getting their Mojo on
By Rob Williams
Winnipeg Free Press — June 20, 2010

Old, new songs thrill their fans
With a batch of new songs surrounded by hits, you could say Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers delivered a Mojo sandwich to Winnipeggers Saturday.

Petty and his veteran Florida rock outfit have recorded so many hits over the years, they could have played nothing but classics and easily filled out a three-hour concert (at least).

Instead, the group divided their 110-minute show at the MTS Centre into three parts: hits, songs from their just released album Mojo and finally, more singles.

It was a risky strategy, since the line, “we’ve got a new album and we’d like to play some of it for you,” at many shows is the cue for the crowd to head out for more beer, but Petty’s fans are a devoted bunch, and most of the 10,000 people who filled the arena for his second appearance in the city in less than two years stuck around to hear the mini-Mojo set.

The album is a hit-and-miss affair, but the band wisely chose four songs that allowed the group to show off their diversity and skill, especially that of wild-man guitarist Mike Campbell, whose work on Jefferson Jericho Blues and I Should Have Known It were the highlights of both tracks.

The highlights of the night were numerous, though, even if American Girl didn’t make the set list.

Petty and the Heartbreakers — Campbell, bassist Ron Blair, multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston, keyboardist Benmont Tench and drummer Steve Ferrone — took the stage to the rootsy Listen to Her Heart before the one-two-three punch of You Don’t Know How it Feels, I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’.

Each song had more people getting up and out of their seats to dance, sway, pump their fists in the air and sing. The audience did plenty of singing throughout the show, getting into a call-and-response with Petty at the conclusion of Breakdown and taking over the end of Learning to Fly.

The group showed off their blues influence with an intense version of the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac tune Oh Well and stayed in the heavy-rock mode with Drivin’ Down to Georgia, a song that doesn’t appear on any of their studio albums, but was included as part of last year’s live anthology collection. They should have included it on Mojo.

The stage featured a backdrop of light screens and lighting columns that bathed the band in various colour schemes. There were also occasional strobe blasts and lasers used for extra visual punch. Six video screens showed the group up close, so you could see that big grin on Petty’s face no matter where you were sitting.

Yes, as happy as the fans were to hear Refugee and show climax Don’t Come Around Here No More, Petty and his crew seemed to be enjoying themselves just as much.

“We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you so much. God bless you Winnipeg,” Petty said earnestly following the three-song encore of You Wreck Me, their version of Van Morrison’s Mystic Eyes and Runnin’ Down a Dream.

Handling opening duties was Joe Cocker, who was joined by a six-piece band and two female backup vocalists for a classy 75-minute set of soulful covers and songs he has made his own, no matter who wrote them or recorded them first.

The 66-year-old mad dog still possesses a surprisingly strong voice, which he used to great effect on a powerful version of With a Little Help from My Friends, the tearjerker You Are so Beautiful and Up Where We Belong, written by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Sainte-Marie was in town this week and performed the song at The Forks Wednesday during the first of two Truth and Reconciliation Commission concerts, but didn’t join Cocker on stage last night. Bummer.

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