Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"How ya doing tonight!" Tom Petty exclaimed after a rousing version of "American Dream Plan B." "We're going to give you a full-length, extra strength rock and roll show!"
Needless to say, the veteran rockers didn't disappoint. Playing a chunk of his greatest hits both with the Heartbreakers and solo, Petty gave the crowd what they wanted to hear. The usual batch of sing-alongs like "Free Fallin'," "I Won't Back Down," and "Refugee" had the crowd screaming with the singer, who couldn't help but show his pleasure in the form of a devious smirk.
Touring behind the July release of Hypnotic Eye, the group's 13th studio album, and first extensive U.S. tour since 2010, Petty and the Heartbreakers demonstrated why they've become one of the most beloved bands in American rock history. Like other bands in the advanced stages of their careers, it would be understandable if they were putting out new, uneven music in order to stay on the road. Yet the album was the group's first to top the Billboard 200.
While the set wasn't nearly as experimental and adventurous as the band's six-night stint at the Fonda, it felt comfortable an arena setting. A few songs from those shows, like an acoustic version of "Rebels" from Southern Accents managed to sound just as intimate in the big room as it did in the theatre. Hearing the songs off Wildflowers or even the underrated Echo would have been a treat, but wouldn't have stuck with the band's M-O of this tour, which was to simply have fun as the singer himself stated halfway through.
Despite having played music together for nearly 40 years, Petty and the Heartbreakers show no signs of slowing down. Between the crunchy riffs of the perpetually underrated Mike Campbell and the rousing, easily identifiable keys of Benmont Tench, the group effortlessly powered through the set that mixed subtle improvisation with a sense of comforting familiarity. Petty and the Heartbreakers have the rare ability to make the familiar not sound stale, while tightly gliding through their set.
Over the past decade or so, Petty has morphed from the mad hatter of rock into an elusive figure whose music has strangely managed to unite the unlikely intersection of jam band aficionados with indie rock fans and families. His between song banter, like jokingly – or maybe not – saying that writing "Into the Great Wide Open" was one of the few things he remembers about 1991 and explaining the influence of Paul Revere & The Raiders connected with different with different subsets of bands. Whether or not they experienced rock star Petty of the late '70s, introspective Petty of the '90s or the groovy Petty of today, fans from any generation could agree that the band blurs together any definition of how to slice their sound into whatever subsection of rock.
Many of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers peers are contempt with mediocrity and making a quick buck by banking on nostalgia. As the people who turned out at the Honda Center can attest, somehow, someway, the outfit has become one of the rarest beasts in rock: a sure thing but in the best of ways. And that's not a bad thing.
Critical Bias: One of the first cassettes my parents ever played was Full Moon Fever. It was awesome then and even better now.
Random Notebook Dump: When sitting in prime seats, you probably shouldn't be making out consistently in plain view of the band. My mom wasn't feeling it either for what it's worth.
Set list below:
So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star (The Byrds cover)
Mary Jane's Last Dance
American Dream Plan B
Into the Great Wide Open
I Won't Back Down
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Paul Revere and The Raiders cover)
A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)
U Get Me High
Yer So Bad
Learning to Fly
I Should Have Known It
Runnin' Down a Dream
You Wreck Me