The Petty Archives

In review: Petty's caravan carries honest rock
By Scott Mervis
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - June 23, 1987

Tom Petty sure keeps good company. Last year it was Bob Dylan, who seemed to turn Petty's inspiration level up to high. This year it's the Rock 'n' Roll Caravan with the Georgia Satellites and the Del Fuegos.

The caravan is something of a celebration of the rock the way its founding fathers meant it to be played -- hard, gritty, with heart, soul, conviction and a sense of what is going on in the world.

As Petty said last night of the radio, "They call the records rock 'n' roll but what they are is a bunch of [crap]." The caravan he brought to the Civic Arena last night was on the road to rock.

That's why the Del Fuegos played raw garage rock; why the Satellites played a Chuck Berry tune; why Petty played a reverent, angry version the Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth"; why he played the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"

The only disappointing part of this concert was that only 5,400 turned out to meet Petty, an absurdly small number considering his status. (I have this nightmare of a time coming when the only bands that bother with Pittsburgh are Bon Jovi and Huey Lewis.)

The Del Fuegos, the Yankee reps in the caravan, were a long way from their home in the Boston clubs. In Beantown, the band was filled with energy and blazoned their ragged sound with cocky pride.

The Georgia Satellites came out twangin' and rockin' nearly as hard as Jason and the Scorchers, with whom they toured this spring. At first, the Satellites may seem like Southern rock revisited, but look a little closer and you can find metal, punk, country and British Invasion.

The Satellites, a longtime Atlanta bar band, stomped through a pile-driving set that peaked with "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." The way the Satellites rock should make old bands like the Outlaws and Molly Hatchet think twice about coming back.

Finally, it was Petty and the Heartbreakers, the leaders of the caravan. The veteran band sounded polished and excited to be touring on a strong new album.

The Heartbreakers, one of the finest bands around, could be accused of being derivative. But if at times they echo the Stones, the Byrds, the E Street Band, Dylan, and even Dire Straits, well, that's quite a feat and it just goes to show how much they love music.

Beginning with "Breakdown," Petty and company recapped their career, finishing many of the tunes with pounding crescendos and playing the songs as if they had brand new meaning.

Petty was in fine voice, which for him is kind of whiny, and his performance was edgy and inspired. When he wasn't singing, he railed against Reagan and Bush, against the person who recently burned down his house and against the fan who threw a bottle onto the stage. Petty claimed that he demands honesty from rock 'n' roll and there's no doubt that's what he delivered.