The Petty Archives

You can't get enough of Petty
By Regis Behe
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Thursday, August 17, 2006

You drive past the same building every day for 30 years, never taking much notice of it. Then one day, that building has been designated a national landmark.

That's the best way to describe Tom Petty's career: For three decades always there, occasionally ignored, but now, a treasure by any standard. Wednesday night at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, Petty trotted out his crack troupe of musicians again for what is beginning to seem like an annual event: A jam-packed venue greeting a band at the peak of its powers. And while there are signs, ever so small, that Petty is repeating himself --- the extended instrumental coda of "It's Good to be King," the stripped-down version of "Learning to Fly" with the audience sing-a-long, the sensual build-up of "Don't' Come Around Here No More" that climaxes with frenetic strobe lights, were all reprised from last year's appearance --- that's akin to complaining about the Steelers winning another Super Bowl. One can never get enough of such sterling performances, and few rock bands deliver like the Heartbreakers.

It does help that Petty's catalog is deep, and that even the beginning of a show is loaded. Starting with "Listen to Her Heart" and psychedelic tropes of "Mary Jane's Last Dance," he had the audience in thrall. Then, "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Fallin'," the audience joining in without prompting. A song from Petty's new solo album, "Highway Companion," slowed things down a bit, as did a journey through the past, the band racing through the Yardbird's "I'm a Man" and Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well."

But then those who came only for the hits were rewarded with numerous nuggets: The venomous "You Don't Know How It Feels," the buoyant Traveling Wilbury's gem, "Handle with Care." And of course, the mega-hits, "Refugee" and "American Girl" delivered with seemingly more gusto than they were more than 25 years ago by a band -- notably guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench -- that still seems relevant. As if each show simultaneously opens a time capsule that reveals the past and present.