Tom Petty | ★★★★ | Clark Country Amphitheater | Ridgefield, Washington | July 29, 2006
Review by Chesley Johnson
Rolling Stone #1007 - August 24, 2006
The Heartbreakers tear through hits and future classics.
Tom Petty took the stage looking a little tired, his shirt hanging loose on his scrawny frame and deep lines scoring his face. But when the Heartbreakers launched into "Listen to Her Heart," it was hard to believe that the band was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and what may be its last major tour. Exhibiting offhand grace, Petty ambled around the stage, tossing out the occasional arm thrust, Christ post and stray kick. Yet even when simply strumming rhythm guitar or shaking maracas, he utterly owned the amphitheater outside Portland, Oregon.
Petty amicably delivered a handful of usual-suspects megahits -- he's such a pro that he can make a chestnut like "Free Fallin'" invigorating again -- before launching into "Saving Grace," one of three songs from the new Highway Companion. On another new tune, the spare ballad "Square One," Petty's shoulders tensed forward and his voice's reedy edge melted off to revel its underlying warmth.
During a surprisingly moving "Learning to Fly," the crowd provided a giant, lush backing vocal for Petty to sing over; on "Refugee" and "Runnin' Down a Dream," guitarist Mike Campbell delivered nimble, dramatic solos. After tearing through the Yardbirds' "I'm a Man" and the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care," Petty took a moment to introduce the Heartbreakers -- and, almost as an afterthought, "honorary member" Stevie Nicks. Cue crowd going bananas. The lace-clad Nicks romped onstage for a killer "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," then took lead vocals for "I Need to Know." ("You haven't heard this song until you've heard Stevie do it," Petty said, and he was right.) The show's most thrilling moment, "Don't Come Around Here No More," with Nicks on backing vocals on tambourine, ended in a crashing, surreally strobe-lit jam with both Petty and Nicks thrashing like teenagers. In that moment, their silky blond hair flying, flash-frozen in the strobe's white light, they seemed both timeless and immediate, classic and forever young.