The Petty Archives

Not just a Petty show
By Gabe Estill
The Western Courier - April 25, 2003

Regardless of popular musical trends that cause him to share the charts with generally less-talented people, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have built a career on uncompromised integrity. So it was pure Petty to emblazon his catalogue and his roots with an intimate audience, particularly in the form of a five-night run at Chicago's Vic Theater.

Though attendees paid dearly for this privilege of intimacy, the audience was treated to more than just a greatest hits set; the warmth of the occasion called for a more eclectic and roots-y show.

Providing the audience with a condensed history of blues and boogie, Petty let the opening number, John Lee Hooker's "Baby, Please Don't Go," set the tone for an evening that was as important to the artist as it was to his audience: an enjoyment that is seldom shared anymore.

Backlogging through his influences with covers that included JJ Cale's "Other Woman Blues," Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and The Animals "I'm Cryin,'" the first set was like spinning records with someone who truly knows rock ‘n' roll. He also found time to include the Traveling Wilbury's "Handle With Care" and his own masterpieces from the seldom-heard "Strangered in the Night" to the radio favorite "You Don't Know How It Feels."

Clearly enjoying his tenure on stage, Petty often opened his arms as if to embrace those who have listened for so many years. The second set cemented Petty's already sacred place in rock history. Opening with Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" and then segueing into another Cale tune, "13 Days," Petty balanced older influences and rarities with new inclusions like "Lost Children" from last year's magnificent "The Last DJ." Sing-a-longs were not forgotten, however, as Petty and crew performed stripped down versions of "Learning To Fly," "Yer So Bad" and "Refugee."

The evening came to a close with a short encore of Chuck Berry's "Carol" and a blazing "You Wreck Me," providing yet another reminder of where this band came from and where it can still go.