The Petty Archives

Tom Petty At The Spectrum With New Hits, Seasoned Gems
By Dan DeLuca
The Philadelphia Inquirer - April 10, 1995

With nearly two decades' worth of hits under his belt, Tom Petty has earned his place as the most prominent veteran male American rocker around. Compared to Bruce Springsteen or even John Mellencamp, Petty's work has often seemed slight and unwilling to risk seriousness. But while his contemporaries have dawdled, Petty keeps building rootsy, chiming tunes around sturdy choruses that are easy to sing along with, and scoring one MTV hit after the next.

At the Spectrum on Friday night, Petty pulled top-shelf hits off his current album, Wildflowers (American), and reached back to the late '70s for such still-fresh gems as "Listen to Her Heart" and the prototypically Byrdsian "American Girl." He's never been a dynamic live performer, but Petty's now able to galvanize an arena crowd with just the shouted chorus of ''Free Fallin' " or a solo version of "The Waiting."

It helps, of course, that he's got the Heartbreakers behind him. New drummer Steve Ferrone added punch and finesse. And guitarist Mike Campbell made a case for himself as an underrated ever-tasteful guitar hero. In addition to the surf instrumental "Diamond Head," Campbell added intelligent embroidery to everything, from the thick riffing of "Mary Jane's Last Dance" to a sparkling mandolin solo on "Yer So Bad."

The show dragged in the middle; Petty can't keep it going for 120 minutes. But his drawling, Dylanesque vocals were effective all night long, and he took chances. There was a credible version of Muddy Waters' "I Just Want to Make Love to You," and an unrecorded song called "Drivin' Down to Georgia" that worked into a dark fury.

The most impressive thing was to hear the way the passing years have given weight to Petty's songs. The show opened with "Love Is a Long, Long Road," and took in a good piece of that highway along the way, with tunes like the folksy "Time to Move On" and "Runnin' Down a Dream" that obviously mean something to Petty. At the close, Petty quieted the room with the whispered lullaby "Allright for Now" ("Sleep tight my baby/Unfurrow your brow").