Petty/Winwood: From the Cheap Seats
By Jim Caligiuri
The Austin Chronicle - Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A friend got lucky on the only day $10 lawn seats went on sale for Verizon Amphitheater shows earlier this summer, so I was able to sneak into last night's Tom Petty/Steve Winwood show in Selma for cheap. The low price probably says more about the state of the touring industry, because everything but the free parking was ridiculously priced. I mean, come on, $9 for a plastic cup of Budweiser? But I digress.

Steve Winwood opened with an hour-long traipse through his past with a couple of side steps into latest Nine Lives (Columbia). Deftly managing to hit all the high points of his career, he performed songs from the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith, and his solo life with verve and polish. Tropical rhythms met blue-eyed soul augmented by expansive saxophone and the flute work of Paul Booth, making time fly. "Dear Mr. Fantasy," featuring Winwood's extended guitar workout, was a crowd-pleaser. As a whole, it made me wish he would play Austin sometime soon for a more extensive visit.

People go to a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers show to sing along. The band could be a jukebox: their songs are so well known, Petty doesn't have to sing, he can let the crowd croon for him. The driving "You Wreck Me" and trademark jangle of "Listen to Her Heart" were just the beginning of a set that was mostly familiar and thoroughly enjoyable. With a curtain of lights and high definition video serving as an innovative backdrop, the Heartbreakers were typically machine-like. A scruffy "End of the Line" paid tribute to the Traveling Wilburys and a mid-set triumvirate of the ZZ Top boogie "Saving Grace," a dark, effecting "Face in the Crowd," and the hard blues "Honeybee" offered a temporary reprieve from the greatest hits.

After nearly two hours, Petty offered a broad smile at set's end while singing "Refugee." It revealed a love for what he does, and with the overwhelming reaction he received all evening, the Heartbreakers' brand of American music continues to draw an equal amount of affection.