Petty Returns To State, Ready To Roll
By Eric R. Danton
Hartford Courant — July 10, 2002
New stuff, old stuff — fans of Tom Petty aren’t picky.
In fact, they screamed enthusiastically for both when Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked out Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in the group’s first Connecticut show since 1999.
The crowd had clearly pined for the nasal-voiced singer in the intervening years. Even Petty seemed overwhelmed at times by the raucous ovations rolling down the aisles to wash over him and his band during nearly 20 songs — not one a dud.
“This is the most fun in the world,” Petty said at one point, when the cheering had quieted enough for him to be heard.
The Heartbreakers opened with stellar vocal harmonies on “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” a road-trip rocker that slid nicely into “I Won’t Back Down.” The latter sounded more relaxed and less strident than the version Petty performed last fall in one of the Sept. 11-related benefit concerts, and the audience sang along with the familiar words.
Of course, the crowd knew the words to nearly every song Petty performed, save three new ones from an album due this fall. The first of those, “Have Love, Will Travel,” was a classic-sounding Petty ballad that drew as much applause as better-known tunes, like “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
After the first new tune, the musicians visited the opposite end of their catalog with “Here Comes My Girl” and “Even the Losers” from the 1979 album “Damn the Torpedoes.”
Despite a fun jam to end “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the best moments came when Petty slung an acoustic guitar over his shoulder. His voice conveyed the desperation in the words to “Rebels,” and the audience helped out with “Hey, hey, hey! ” in the chorus.
There was no shortage of electric guitar. Besides the Heartbreakers’ phenomenal guitarist, Mike Campbell, the crowd got a treat in opener Brian Setzer.
Best known for his work fronting the Stray Cats, Setzer is like a pompadoured Ghost of Rock ‘n’ Roll Past. Setzer played old-school rockabilly tunes like “20 Flight Rock” and his own stuff, including (of course) “Rock This Town,” complete with a wild improvised ending.