The Petty Archives

Hearts miss a beat
By Ted Shaw
The Windsor Star - March 19, 1983

It's the garage band of the '80s.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ripsawed through a set of guitar songs at Cobo Arena Friday that could have been heard screeching through the corner Wurlitzer 15 years ago at your favorite bar.

When Petty twanged away at the McCoys' Hang On Sloopy, it was clear: the Heartbreakers would feel more at home cutting the thickened air of a smokey tavern than playing to a packed basketball palace.

Stage presence is something Petty and the boys leave to Sinatra. When a miscue and a dropped guitar can turn into a crowd-pleasing experience, you know you're dealing with the basics. It was like 10,000 people had been packed into the Riviera for a night, nose-to-navel with a platinum-selling recording artist who knows enough chords to get his way through the set, and that's it.

 Petty did, in fact, lose a grip on his instrument during the mid-tempo ballad, She's A Woman In Love. The band played his cue chord two or three times before stopping, Petty stood there silent while the crowd cheered wildly, then the whole thing resumed on the second chorus when he picked up his guitar. The audience loved it, of course.

And it made sense. Nothing he performed lasted more than three minutes and the songs were rough-hewn copies of the album versions, like the bands that play Tom Petty songs in the local bar. There was almost no choreography, except for occasional forays front-stage by Petty and his guitarist, Mike Campbell.

But then, this is rock; not A Chorus Line. And this is a latter-day Byrds; not the Temptations.

The best songs were those that hacked their way through Cobo's thicket-like acoustics like a machete edge: King's Road, Breakdown, Don't Do Me Like That, and Refugee.

Paul Carrack and Nick Lowe's Noise To Go opened up with a surprisingly effective dance set of top hits from their solo albums. Using the former lead guitarist of the Rumour, Martin Belmont, the band sped through up-tempo editions of How Long, Tempted and Cruel To Be Kind and a couple of new Carrack tunes, I Need You and Lesson In Love.

On their own, Carrack and Lowe are just names in the production credits; together, they make great music.