Tom Petty is one of rock's premier rockers
By Diahann Nadeau
The Georgetown Herald - Wednesday, September 6, 1989
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played a sold out concert at Kingswood on Labor Day Weekend. Petty, who is notoriously wary of reporters and interviews, was totally open with his fans. Relaxed, grinning, friendly, and outgoing, Petty was a delight to watch, a charismatic master of ceremonies who had the audience enthralled from beginning to end.
The stage was decorated with a number of props, including a full size totem pole, stuffed grizzly bear, ox head, wooden Indian, suit of armor, and a few other oddities. The band opened with American Girl from their 1976 debut album, went on to The Reason Why, from Petty's solo album, the brilliant Full Moon Fever. There followed two hours of old favorites, such as Refugee, You Got Lucky, Even the Losers, Rebels, Breakdown, Don't Come Around Here No More, and Jamming Me, complete with updated lyrics -- "take back Batman and Pete Rose."
Interspersed through the old songs were the new: Free Falling ("I like that one myself," Petty admitted at the end of it), Yer So Bad ("my system got lucky and married a Yuppie, took him for all he was worth, now she's a swinger and dating a singer, I can't decide which is worse"), the incredibly pretty Face in the Crowd, and Running Down a Dream. He also included some covers, Route 66, Should I Stay or Should I Go, Feel a Whole Lot Better and Don't Bring Me Down.
Heartbreakers Mike Campbell on lead guitar, Benmont Tench, "the boy with the boogie-woogie brain," on keyboards, Howie Epstein on bass, and Stan Lynch on drums were all excellent. But Petty is the man to watch. Not just another pretty face in rock (someone once described him as having "a face only a mother could love, and then only on payday"), he is too thin and weak chinned to be attractive. However, he is so charming and active that it is impossible to take one's eyes off him.
Petty led the crowd through lots of hand clapping and singing, admitting, after letting the audience sing most of Breakdown, to being "lazy and irresponsible." He then amended that to just being lazy.
Petty is not an irresponsible rocker; on this tour he has Greenpeace at the gate, petitions and memberships on hand. He castigated the sixties nostalgia trend -- "I'm really sick of that Woodstock s..., that's on TV, only because I think nostalgia's not a healthy thing, it means nothing's going on now. But the most important thing in the next decade is whether or not we can save the planet we live on." These thoughts earned him tremendous applause. Mind you, this was a raucous crowd, a partying crowd; Petty would have elicited applause for reciting the alphabet.
Watching Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert gives one an insight into the band that just can't be found on their records. This is a group that is at its best on stage, communing with the fans, drawing on their enthusiasm, displaying a playfulness and spontaneity that is a joy to watch. Petty will be back, and fans should make every effort to catch him next time. These guys are a lot of fun and offer a brilliant repertoire to boot, making this one of the best rock and roll acts around.