Summerfest Special: Petty delivers the genuine goods
By Gemma Tarlach
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel - Saturday, July 2, 2005
Old pro gives a show with a glint in his eyes
Tom Petty didn't back down.
Petty and the Heartbreakers kept a promise to deliver a "genuine American rock 'n' roll show" to a sold-out crowd Friday night at the Marcus Amphitheater.
Petty's hour-plus set was short on innovation; even new songs from an upcoming CD, such as "Turn This Car Around," felt like comfortable old favorites. But who would want Petty to change his signature style of Southern-flavored rock, full of buttery guitars, sturdy beats and giant singalong choruses?
Decked out in a green velvet smoking jacket, Petty owned the stage with a beguiling mix of mischief and the effortless grace of a professional who's been rocking crowds longer than many in the Marcus audience have been alive.
"Y'all are gettin' a little rowdy out there," he teased when the crowd outshouted him during "Mary Jane's Last Dance."
The audience's enthusiasm was understandable. In addition to hits from throughout his career -- including set opener "Listen to Her Heart," "You Don't Know How It Feels" and "I Won't Back Down" -- Petty offered up some unexpected gems.
With multi-instrumentalist and singer Scott Thurston filling in for the late Roy Orbison, Petty romped through "Handle with Care," from his stint with the Travelin' Wilburys.
The set also included a cover of The Animals' "I'm Crying" and the new song, "Melinda," with the brooding feel of a lost Johnny Cash track.
Keeping the music fresh for fan and band alike, Petty played with the melody of "Free Fallin'," arguably improving on the studio version, and brought out a few tracks from the underrated "Wildflowers" album, including the title song. While Petty's music isn't complicated, the band's cohesion, and his own ability to deliver even a spare tune such as "Crawlin' Back to You" in an amphitheater without losing its intimacy, make the Summerfest veteran a welcome returning guest.
Deadlines precluded a review of Petty's entire set.
Despite second billing, the Black Crowes hit the stage with all the swagger of a headlining act -- and were welcomed as such by an enthusiastic crowd. Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson led the recently reunited Crowes through an hourlong opening set of boogie-drenched roots rock that recalled that moment in the '70s when a song wasn't done right live unless it stretched into a 10-minute jam.
While most of the crowd appreciated what Chris Robinson dubbed "freak 'n' roll for the true believers," a few fans grumbled that the Crowes ended their set with "Remedy" and skipped an encore.