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Petty and band urge fans to save world
By Anthony Lederman
The Independent Florida Alligator - Monday, January 29, 1990

Tom Petty did more than just play guitar and sing songs in his hometown Saturday night -- he urged the audience to save the world.

During the almost two-hour concert in the O'Connell Center, Petty and the Heartbreakers mentioned several times the importance of preserving the environment to the record near-capacity crowd of 10,628.

"We might not have 50 years to save the world -- we might not even have 10," Petty said both at a news conference and during the show.

Petty and the Heartbreakers played in Gainesville for the first time in seven years, although Petty said he often comes home unannounced.

"Like anyone coming back to their hometown, we're all very nervous about playing tonight," Petty said at a news conference prior to the show. "It's really a dream come true to be here."

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Petty, who promoted Greenpeace during the concert, said be became aware of the ecological problems when he and the Heartbreakers took a two-year break from touring.

"Since I've become aware of the ecological crisis we face, I do not use Styrofoam or things that are not bio-degradable," he said.

Petty said he is aware of such things as how long he showers. He said the solution is for people to understand that everyone makes a difference.

Noticeably in awe of the crowd, Petty and the Heartbreakers played most of their hits, including "Refugee," "Breakdown" and "Don't Come Around Here No More."

"It's been too long -- way too long," said Gainesville resident and long-time Petty fan Mark Dennison.

"It was awesome," said junior Julie Knight, who said in the front row. "Tom Petty was wonderful."

Many fans said they felt Petty was especially appreciative of the crowd's support.

"It seemed like he really enjoyed himself," journalism junior Cathy Hufford said. "I had heard rumors that he didn't want to come to Gainesville."

Petty said the Heartbreakers had not played Gainesville sooner because they tour mostly in the summer, when there are not as many students at UF.

"We really haven't toured in the winter because we're all older now, with families and children," Petty said.

"We always wanted to come back," he said. "We'd much rather play here than in Jacksonville."

Petty said his arrival in Gainesville Saturday sparked thousands of memories.

"I've got so many relatives and families in the crowd that I've got to be good," Petty said during the show.

Petty dedicated the ballad "Southern Accents" to his mother, who was at the show, and the late James "Dub" Thomas, who died Jan. 9. Thomas owned Dub's, where Petty started his career with the band Mudcrutch.

"Thank you for giving us a job when we needed one," Petty said, referring to Dub.

Gainesville Mayor-Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut presented Petty and the Heartbreakers a key to the city prior to the concert, proclaiming Jan. 27 "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Day."

"I never dreamed when I was living over the Gator Groomer that one day I'd be sitting down talking to the mayor," Petty told the crowd.

"People ask me, 'How does it feel to be back in Gainesville?' Well, it feels really good."