Music: Petty, Heartbreakers showcase talents
By Michael Pflughoeft
The Milwaukee Sentinel - June 24, 1985
East Troy -- A Southern breeze blew through Alpine Valley Sunday night in the form of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and for a few hours, at least, it seemed that 8,500 fans put life's problems on hold, kicked back and relaxed in true Southern fashion.
"Southern Accents," Petty's latest album, is his statement about life below the Mason-Dixon Line, where Petty grew up. The area remains close to his heart to this day.
The Alpine stage was transformed into a broken-down Southern mansion, complete with weathered marble pillars and shattered windows as Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked their way through hit after hit.
This is the first time Petty has toured with a theatrical backdrop, and the staging only added to his unabashed performance.
His unique, nasal tenor was sharp, each word dripping with emotion, as was his guitar playing -- quite a surprise, considering it was reported he might never play again after fracturing his hand last October.
Striking a perfect balance between old classics ("American Girl," "Don't Do Me Like That") and new songs (the funky "It Ain't Nothin' To Me" and "Don't Come Around Here No More"), the show was paced well and showcased the Heartbreakers' considerable talents.
Mike Campbell's lead guitar was clean and inspired, and Benmont Tench pounded away at the keyboards like a madman. However, the rhythm section -- former Milwaukeean Howie Epstein on bass and Stan Lynch on drums -- was the driving force behind the band during most of the rockers.
A highlight of the show came during "The Waiting." Petty played the first two-thirds of the song solo, almost a sing-along with the audience, with the band kicking in for a rousing finish that had the audience on its feet.
Petty's relaxed manner, along with his straight-ahead, no-nonsense rock 'n' roll, made for an enjoyable way to spend a warm summer evening.