Crowd loves what Petty has to offer
By Phil Chen
The Stanford Daily - Tuesday, July 30, 1985
The Concord Pavilion, a grass-and-concrete bowl located in the hills east of Berkeley, was th site Saturday night of performances by a new band, Lone Justice, and by a group that has been around since 1975, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Lone Justice is a Texas-based country-rock outfit that has been hyped into hyperspace by Geffen Records as rock's Next Great Breakthrough. With promotion like that, I was not surprised to find myself disappointed in the band. Maria McKee can certainly sing; she had a good range and was capable of packing real emotional punch into her delivery. However, I didn't care much for her screechy little-girl voice, which always made her sound as if she were throwing a tantrum.
Musically, the band sounded like many other "cowpunk" bands: basic rock beat overlaid with Marlboro Country guitar riffs. Guitarists Ryan Hedgecock and Tony Gilkyson, bassist Marvin Etzioni and drummer Don Heffington worked together to form a competent, dull unit that never explored beyond its own very constrained musical limits.
Lone Justice ran through almost every song on its current LP, including the Petty-penned "Ways To Be Wicked." Fortunately for the band, the crowd was in a terrific mood and cheered raucously after every song; even so, Lone Justice declined to play en encore when its set ended.
But the crowd, an older-looking bunch (definitely not teeny-boppers), came to see Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers, and from the opening chords of "American Girl" to the last encore an hour and 40 minutes later, he was clearly their rock 'n' roll hero. Every word he uttered and every song the group played drew an awesome response from the crowd. When Petty asked them, roughly a quarter of the crowd indicated that they had seen his show in Berkeley the night before.
What made this concert particularly fine was Petty's true appreciation of their adulation; he didn't let his status go to his head, but remained open and easygoing, even humorous at times. This didn't mean he was unaware of his control over the audience; during a song, he would often walk to the edge of the stage, his arms spread wide in a "How am I doing?" position that would immediately send the crowd into new fits of adoration.
Meanwhile, the Heartbreakers were acquitting themselves reasonably well, sounding very practiced on the show's mix of hits from the band's past and from their latest record, "Southern Accents." To break up the sameness of the Heartbreakers' music, Petty played two verses from "The Waiting" solo before the rest of the band joined in. Petty has mastered the art of singing without moving his lower jaw; this was heard most easily on the slower ballads.
"Don't Come Around Here No More," the band's latest single, was noteworthy for both its bizarre, Alice-in-Wonderland visual effects and the appearance of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics on rhythm guitar. Stewart was by far the most colorful person on stage in his red, psychedelic-patterned jacket; otherwise, he added little to the song's performance, although he did manage to ungracefully fall off bassist Howie Epstein's monitor. He later joined the Heartbreakers for their second encore, again with no discernible result.
Backing up the Heartbreakers were three horn players, who danced, moved and gestured in unison to hilarious effect, and two female background vocalists. All five stood on platforms built around the back wings of the stage, which inexplicably had been decorated to look like a Greek temple, complete with stone steps and tall columns.
Late in the concert, several people at the front held up an elaborate "We Love You TP" banner to Petty, and he took it and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was symbolic of the bond between Petty and his fans, the success of Petty's return to his Southern-rock roots and his ability to translate both into a rousing, heartfelt performance.