Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers deliver hits alongside strong new material at Blossom Music Center
Cleveland Plain Dealer — Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Thirty years ago, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers scored a Top 20 single with “Refugee.”
In a recent documentary about the making of the classic “Damn the Torpedoes” album, singer-guitarist Petty admits he didn’t think much of the song at first. With its “Everybody’s had to fight to be free” rallying cry, it went on to become one of his band’s best-loved anthems.
As ever, “Refugee” sounded wonderful in concert Tuesday night at Blossom Music Center.
And for their part, Petty & Co. proved they could still put up a good fight in pursuit of artistic freedom.
Sure, these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers aimed to please with proven quantities, opening with the Byrds-like oldie “Listen to Her Heart” and capping a three-song encore with the ever-popular “American Girl.” In between, “Free Fallin’,” “Breakdown,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and other calling-card hits had fans hoisting beers and singing along.
To their credit, though, Petty and his stalwart companions — guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston, bass player Ron Blair and drummer Steve Ferrone — refused merely to coast on past glories.
The centerpiece of their nearly two-hour performance was an impressive suite of four selections from their latest album, “Mojo,” starting with the rambunctious “Jefferson Jericho Blues.” The latter number was punctuated with bursts of roadhouse harmonica, courtesy of Thurston.
Petty and the Heartbreakers also had their mojo working for “Running Man’s Bible” and “I Should Have Known It.” The best of the new bunch was “Good Enough,” a lilting, slow-burning blues in an “I Put a Spell on You” vein.
For every vintage hit omitted from the set list (“The Waiting,” for one), there was a lost gem such as the jangling “Kings Highway” off 1991’s “Into the Great Wide Open” album.
Petty didn’t say much between songs and he moves a bit more gingerly these days, but he clearly seemed to be enjoying himself, especially when a hoodoo-voodoo cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” found him shaking a pair of maracas.
“I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin,” Petty sang with his signature drawl, playfully running a hand along his pant leg and stroking a grizzled beard. He turns 60 next month.
Petty and the Heartbreakers had been scheduled to play here in July, but the show was postponed while Campbell recuperated from heat exhaustion.
The wild-haired guitar virtuoso was, in Petty’s words, “in 100-percent health” on this occasion. Campbell was never at a loss for a melodic yet intense solo, particularly at the end of “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
Listen to Her Heart
You Don’t Know How It Feels
I Won’t Back Down
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