Review: Rock 'n roll caravan rips through Blossom
By Christopher Leonardi
The Jambar - Thursday, July 2, 1987
Petty and the Heartbreakers' explosive Blossom show reviewed.
The concert event of the year was here, as the "Rock 'n Roll Caravan '87" steamrolled its way through Blossom Music Center last Tuesday night. The triple-billing featured two of the most impressive new bands in rock music today (Del Fuegos and the Georgia Satellites) along with those reigning heavyweight champions of the road, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Anyone concerned with the state of rock and roll in this age of shoe corporations sporting Beatle tunes as their anthems can rest assured that the styles taught by the masters have not been forgotten.
In fact, the level of intensity shown by the three bands at Blossom last week shows that there is definitely a resurgence being enjoyed today in the area of "true roots" rock 'n roll. Both the Georgia Satellites and the Heartbreakers displayed their loyalty to the greatest R&B legend of all time, Chuck Berry.
The only problem for Del Fuegos is that much of the audience did not actually begin to materialize until their set was finished. It was too bad. The latecomers missed an exciting young band whose better days are definitely soon in coming.
Del Fuego's brand of rock 'n roll is unique yet founded in a funky raw-edged guitar sound that brings back memories of earlier J. Geils' recordings. Vocalist Dan Zanes (whose voice will definitely take some getting used to, especially by the more unfamiliar audiences) sounds like a raspier-throated version of Mick Jagger. And the patches of people that did manage to see their set were treated to a fine performance by the Boston-based unit and responded amiably.
The show picked up when the Georgia Satellites came screaming onto the stage as the crowd began to thicken. They played, of course, the song that has brought them their sudden fame, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself," along with three other cuts from their debut album on Elektra.
They also debuted a few new compositions as well as covering their own version of Berry's classic "No Particular Place To Go."
The Satellites are definitely the biggest up-and-coming "purist" rock group to emerge onto the national scene this year, as shown by the simple laws of supply and demand. Their first LP, Georgia Satellites, has now sold over 500,000 copies and they are currently on their second tour of America this year.
However, the real fireworks began when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took the stage. As usual, the laid-back Petty captured the audience in powerful fashion with his ever-humble stage presence. After starting off the show with the group's first Top Forty hit, "Breakdown," he slyly turned to the crowd and said, "Hello, my name is Tom Petty and these are the Heartbreakers."
For years now, the Heartbreakers have been established as the quintessential road band and their performance at Blossom was no exception.
Petty is a class act in every aspect of performance. Unlike many of today's top-grossing performers, he does not insult the intelligence of the crowd with pretentious posturing or banal commentary. Rather, he acts as if he's talking to a gathering of friends that he simply hasn't seen since the last time around.
Calling the Cleveland area his "favorite place to come to," he talked about everything from the State of the Union to the state of today's radio airwaves, which in Petty's mind was less than admirable.
He also discussed the fact that he lost his California home when it was set on fire last month. This has not been discussed with the media, but Petty told his audience that he learned a lot of good can come out of such personal tragedies. He commented that when things like that happen, you realize that compared to human life (he and his family were sleeping inside when the fire broke out but they escaped unharmed), possessions mean virtually nothing.
The performance itself was spectacular in every respect. Musically speaking, The Heartbreakers have been, and still remain, the most exciting and creatively spontaneous band on the road today. And the spontaneity that this band embodies too well is a different attribute to acquire and even harder to retain after ten grueling years of touring.
The lineup of songs consisted of such Heartbreakers standards as "Even the Losers," "Refugee," "The Waiting," and "American Girl," as well as five tunes from their new LP, Let Me Up (I've Had Enough).
Equally as pleasing were the band's four cover versions, including songs by Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills and a surprising version of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
He ended the 90 minute performance with his 1979 Top 20 hit "Don't Do Me Like That," followed by a searing rendition of Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny."
A lot of hype has been given this area over the selection of Cleveland as the site of the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame -- Petty even mentioned it himself. But it is not often that people in this day and age are able to hear a hall of fame caliber performance. Well, this was one such show.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have filled the gap left by such retiring stalwarts as the Rolling Stones and have emerged as the leading force in their field -- in the studio and even more importantly, on the road.