The Spokesman-Review — November 9, 2002

  • Concet Review: Petty proves there's still hope for rock
    By Heather Lalley
    The Spokesman-Review — November 9, 2002

    Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, with Jackson Browne | Thursday, Nov. 7, Spokane Arena
    Near the end of his passionate, freewheeling show Thursday at the Spokane Arena, Tom Petty articulated a sentiment he had already made plain for much of his two-hours-plus set:

    "We want to disprove the rumor that rock 'n' roll is dead," he told a packed, screaming Arena crowd. "Rock 'n' roll is very much alive. I can feel its heart beating in Spokane tonight."

    That statement is more than a rock 'n' roll nicety coming from Petty, who just released "The Last DJ." The album is a scathing indictment of a bottom-line-driven music industry that, as Petty sings in the title track, celebrates mediocrity.

    Yet there's hope for rock — as long as Petty and his expert band, The Heartbreakers, keep making music.

    Forget those music mags frothing over the latest young messiahs come to save rock 'n' roll. Petty & The Heartbreakers proved Thursday that, in their hands at least, rock doesn't need any saving.

    Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne and his six-piece band kicked off the concert with a sometimes-sleepy hour-long set that included several new songs from his latest CD, "The Naked Ride Home," as well as old favorites like "The Pretender" and "Running on Empty." Particularly impressive was his bluesy "Culver Moon."

    The mood turned electric, though, when Petty — dressed in a maroon velvet jacket and faded jeans, his long blond hair brushing his shoulders — strode onstage with The Heartbreakers and launched into "The Last DJ."

    That would be the first of a half dozen new tunes Petty would unveil during the show. The new songs, from the ballad "Have Love Will Travel" to the snarling, discordant "Joe" ("the meanest, nastiest song I ever wrote," Petty said), were well-received.

    In fact, it's hard to remember a louder, more appreciative Arena audience. Just when it seemed like the screams couldn't get any more intense, the audience amped up its enthusiasm.
    Petty and his bandmates seemed genuinely impressed by the response.

    "I want to play here every night," he said. "This is great."

    Petty plucked some rarely performed tunes from his album, including Gene Clark's 1964 song "Feel A Whole Lot Better" off Petty's "Full Moon Fever."

    And, of course, the set list included plenty of Petty's trademark songs about average guys and girls living their lives the best they can.

    The talented band — with such standouts as guitarist Mike Campbell and pianist Benmont Tench — found new life in favorites like "Free Fallin'," "I Won't Back Down," "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "The Waiting," "Refugee," "Running Down a Dream" and "You Don't Know How It Feels."

    And Petty — his distinctive nasal tone in fine form — seemed to discover new phrasing and inflection in even his most well-worn numbers.

    After a more than 90-minute set, Petty and his band returned to a standing ovation for a half-hour encore that included a jammy reprise of "Mary Jane's Last Dance," introduced by a little old-time soul call-and-response, and a boogie-woogie cover of Chuck Berry's "Carol."

    "We're very proud to tell you we're here tonight on this tour with no corporate sponsorship whatsoever," Petty told the crowd near the show's end. "We're brought to you by you. Seems like a pretty good arrangement, doesn't it?"

    Indeed.

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