The Petty Archives

Rock: Subtlety takes a back seat
By Jim Middleton
The Sydney Sun-Herald - April 29, 1980

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Capitol Theatre
It's not that there is anything particularly bad about the music of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. They all play and sing proficiently enough, but the music is just not all that interesting.

The Americans regard The Heartbreakers as New Wave rock and roll.

At the Capitol on Saturday night in fact, they presented the currently acceptable end of Heavy Metal -- subtley took a back seat as the audience lapped up Petty's relentless performance.

Not surprisingly then, it was the occasional quiet moment that became the highlight of the concert: songs like Fooled Again, Luna, and Refugee, where Petty had a chance to show off his voice to best advantage.

It's not a bad voice either -- at times reminiscent of Roger McGuinn of The Byrds -- the seminal Los Angeles band of the 60s, at others surprisingly similar to Bob Dylan's. But what a shame that in concert he gives himself so few chances to exploit his voice fully.

It is also a paradox of those modern supposedly guitar bands that in performance their keyboard players generally provide all the audible melody, colour and texture. The guitars often down each other out in a competitive crossfire of cacophony.

It is a pity because both Petty and his lead guitarist, Mike Campbell, are pretty good technicians.

In conclusion, two aspects of the concert presentation do deserve special commendation. First, while the sound was quite loud it was very clear -- all notes were quite audible and undistorted; the sound mix on the drum kit was a particular pleasure.

Second,  a series of rapid and discreet guitar changes enabled the band to remain in tune without resorting to the tiresome tune-ups which mar and interrupt many othereise enjoyable performances.