Tom! Come around here some more
By Rob Williams
Winnipeg Free Press - Sunday, August 10, 2008
Petty, Winwood put on fantastic show
Steve Winwood and Tom Petty | August 9, 2008, MTS Center | Attendance: 13000 | ★★★★½ out of ★★★★★
Tom Petty is an unlikely superstar.
THere's nothing particularly flashy about him, he's ordinary looking and isn't the kind of guy you read about in the tabloids raising hell and chasing skirts.
He seems unassuming and damn the torpedoes, pretty blood normal. So what makes this seeming regular guy a superstar?
The 57-year-old rock and roll hall of famer has been releasing albums for more than 30 years and has a catalogue of so many hits he could play an entire concert filled with nothing but singles.
Winnipeggers were treated to a healthy dose of those hits last night as Petty and his band the Heartbreakers made their first-ever appearance in the city for an excited crowd of 13,000 who gathered at the MTS Centre on a glorious Saturday for a two-hour extravaganza by one of America's great songwriters and showmen.
"How are you? We're so excited we finally made it to Winnipeg. It's Saturday night and we've got everything we need for one big ass rock 'n' roll show," Petty said after opening with You Wreck Me and Listen to Her Heart.
He had the crowd on his side from the opening chords and kept them there with the twangy I Won't Back Down, Even the Losers and Free Fallin', which turned into a giant sing-along.
He and the Heartbreakers—guitarist Mike Campbell, bassist Ron Blair, drummer Steve Ferrone, keyboardist Benmont Tench and multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston—slowed things down for the wistful Mary Jane's Last Dance before surprising the audience with the jangly End of the Line, originally recorded by the Traveling Wilburys.
There were more surprises to come as opening act Steve Winwood joined Petty and the band for two of Winwood's best-known songs—the Blind Faith classic Can't Find My Way Home and Spencer Davis Group party starter Gimme Good Lovin'.
When Winwood left the stage—decorated with a giant light rig in the shape of a tree and numerous video screens and cubes—Petty kept the feel-good vibe going with Saving Grace, off his latest album, 2006's Highway Companion, before digging back to the past for an extended version of Breakdown from the band's 1976 debut.
Between songs Petty was talkative, and often seemed genuinely humbled by the admiration coming from the crowd. He often just stood staring into the dark taking it all in, or raising his arms in the air and blowing kisses into the audience, who responded in kind erupting in a huge roar after every song, or taking over the heavy lifting for Learning to Fly and yelling "Give it up, stop!" during the vaguely psychedelic Don't Come Around Here No More, which ended in a blaze of strobes and howling guitars.
Refugee ended the 90-minute main set before the band returned with Runnin' Down a Dream, kickstarted by that instantly recognizable riff, a rousing cover of Them's Mystic Eyes and the anthem American Girl, which ended the show and sent the audience home bouncing.
Prior to Petty, Winwood took the audience on a trip through four decades of his musical journey, reaching back to his earliest days in the Spencer Davis Group blues/soul anthem I'm a Man before showcasing new material such as Hungry Man, Dirty City and At Times We Do Forget, which were received politely but probably won't make any future greatest hits albums.
Winwood switched between guitar and Hammond organ and was sitting on the keys for a reworked version of his 1986 No. 1 hit Higher Love, given a groovy island vibe thanks to the heavy percussion.
Winwood has always had one of music's most distinct voices (there's no mistaking him for anyone else) and even at the age of 60 he still sounds as good as ever. He might not reach for the highest notes anymore, but he still sounds smooth and soulful, although he's not the most engaging performer.
The classic Traffic track Dear Mr. Fantasy found Winwood on guitar, allowing him to reel off the famous solo at the end of the song before getting back behind the organ for the R&B flavoured Empty Pages.
Befitting his status, Winwood at 70 minutes to show off his stuff—an unusually long set for an opening act.