Petty breaks out old faves at concert
By Jane Stevenson
Toronto Sun — August 26, 2010
TORONTO – Tom Petty clearly still has his mojo, and that’s not a play on the name of his first album with The Heartbreakers in eight years.
The 59-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist, initially dressed in a black duster coat with a neat beard accentuating his long hair, and his mates played a set list mainly composed of their hits and older songs — rather than their jammy, blues-based new material from Mojo — at their Air Canada Centre concert on Wednesday night.
“Well, how are you tonight,” said a smiling, overwhelmed Petty as the audience went wild. “We are excited, Toronto — here we are.”
Later he turned up the lights to wave to the audience. “You’re a good-looking crowd,” he observed.
Playing on a stripped-down stage with suspended video screens above to show off closeups of each band member — outstanding lead guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, keyboardist-harmonica player Scott Thurston, bassist Ron Blair, and drummer Steve Ferrone — Petty kicked off the hour-and-45-minute evening of music with an early song from his 30-year-plus back catalogue, Listen To Her Heart.
But it didn’t take long for the band to reach into their hits — You Don’t Know How It Feels, I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’ — before covering an early Fleetwood Mac rocker Oh Well, with Petty losing the coat and his guitar and shaking some maracas as he snaked around the stage.
Petty also offered up Mary Jane’s Last Dance and Breakdown — with Campbell’s playing and Petty’s vocal performance on the latter song leading to a spirited crowd clap-along as the song slowly wound down.
Of the four Mojo songs sandwiched in the middle of the set, the scorching slow blues number Good Enough and the harder-rocking I Should Have Known It stood out over Jefferson Jericho Blues and Running Man’s Bible thanks to some expert playing from Campbell.
When Petty returned to his hits — a gentler version of Learning To Fly, Don’t Come Around Here No More (which prompted a hearty sing-along/clap-along) and Refugee — he had the audience firmly on side again, before the encore barnburners Running Down A Dream and You Wreck Me.
Opening for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers was ’60s California folk-rock heavyweight act Crosby, Stills and Nash, one of several high-profile openers on Petty’s tour that launched in May. (Others included Joe Cocker and ZZ Top.)
The harmony-heavy threesome — David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, now all in their mid to late 60s — are always warmly welcomed in these parts, particularly when they bring fourth member and hometown boy Neil Young with them. And even if he wasn’t on stage this time, the Canadian musician was represented as CSN delved into the music of Stills’ earlier band with Young, Buffalo Springfield, with Bluebird and For What It’s Worth, and Long May You Run from the The Stills-Young Band.
CSN even tackled a Rolling Stones song, Ruby Tuesday.
Backed by four musicians, they opened their 85-minute set with perhaps their most famous song, Woodstock (written by Canadian Joni Mitchell about her then-boyfriend Nash), with a slimmed-down Stills still sounding as good as ever on his blistering guitar solos, particularly on later numbers Long Time Gone, Deja Vu, Almost Cut My Hair (that featured some big notes from Crosby) and Wooden Ships.
Nash took over on piano for the sweet domestic-bliss song, Our House, while Southern Cross and Teach Your Children featured all three musicians on acoustic guitars. Also noteworthy was the Stills solo hit Love The One You’re With.
Frankly, with this quality of material it would be hard to put a false step forward.
TOM PETTY SET LIST
Listen to Her Heart
You Don’t Know How It Feels
I Won’t Back Down
Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Jefferson Jericho Blues
Running Man’s Bible
I Should Have Known It
Learning to Fly
Don’t Come Around Here No More
Runnin’ Down a Dream
You Wreck Me