The Petty Archives

Fans aren't heartbroken by Petty show
By Jim Abbott
Orlando Sentinel - June 14, 2005

Tom Petty could stick to the hits and play all night, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer did better than that Friday at the Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa.

Petty and the Heartbreakers offered a few well-chosen surprises from their vast catalogue in a two-hour show that went on despite the threat of showers. It was one of two notable concerts in Central Florida this weekend, which also featured R&B singer John Legend in a sold-out performance Sunday at House of Blues.

Although Petty has been doing many of his songs for decades, he still delivers them with enough sincere energy to lift the music above mere nostalgia.

After the band opened with a lesser-known gem, "Listen to Her Heart,'' it became apparent that the set list on Friday would be broader than the hit-laden sprint Petty offered a few years back in Daytona Beach.

"This is one of the favorite songs I ever wrote,'' said Petty, introducing "Crawling Back to You'' off 1994's Wildflowers. That song and a tender rendition of "It'll All Work Out'' were among several ballads that were a nice change of pace from the monster radio hits. Likewise, "Learning to Fly'' continues to be a powerful concert staple, with its big sing-along at the end.

Petty, whose sense of style made him a force in the original MTV decade, brought along an engaging stage set. Angular neon lights framed the multiple video screens behind the band, which showed images in Beatle-esque black-and-white.

Of course, Petty also did plenty of his signature hits, each delivered with studio accuracy. The band was in fine form, with guitarist Mike Campbell tearing up the solos on "Refugee'' and "Runnin' Down a Dream.'' Multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston also added distinctive touches with his harmonica and background vocals.

Pianist Benmont Tench brushed against classical and jazz styles in an ambitious extended solo in "Melinda,'' one of several newer songs that showed Petty hasn't lost his songwriting touch.

Another new song, the midtempo rocker "Turn This Car Around,'' offered a promising peek at something from the band's next studio album, slated for fall release.

Yet the band spent most of its time looking back at songs such as "I Won't Back Down,'' "Free Fallin' '' and "Don't Come Around Here No More.'' It would be fair to call them oldies now, but "timeless" fits better.