The Petty Archives

Concert reviews: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Review by Justin Jacobs
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Monday, July 26, 2010

Though heavy rain demolished chances of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert at First Niagara Pavilion being a comfortable experience, fans wouldn't back down.

Aside from a small run of new songs, Mr. Petty's Saturday night set was a hits-only affair, and the audience ate up every familiar guitar riff, every radio chorus.

The Heartbreakers quietly took the stage after a raging set of driving country-rock from the Drive-By Truckers -- worthy heirs to Mr. Petty's straightforward rock approach -- and dove into "Listen to Her Heart," followed by "You Don't Know How It Feels."

But we did know how it felt -- damp. Not a problem, though.

"We got a hot, sticky night for some rock 'n' roll," said Mr. Petty to the crowd's approval before launching a string of his most classic sing-alongs: "Won't Back Down," then "Free Fallin'" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance."

The appeal of Mr. Petty and the Heartbreakers (and it is huge: the woman next to me drove down from Toronto) has forever been their normalcy. These guys look like your uncle, and they play without the pretension of many bands just as legendary. So the fact that Mr. Petty's showmanship was limited to minor wiggling, winks and smiles at the crowd and a few "Thank you so much!" comments never detracted from the show -- we believe every word, so those minor flourishes meant a lot.

Plus, the band knows how to rock. And they showed off most during a five-song "little mini-set of mojo," said Mr. Petty of his newest album, which has garnered widespread acclaim for its swampy blues style.

Instead of spreading new jams throughout the set, thereby forcing people to listen, Mr. Petty all but gave uninterested fans a long bathroom break. Their loss. "Good Enough," a slow-burning rocker, featured guitarist Mike Campbell's most blazing guitar work of the night; Mr. Campbell's riff on "I Should Have Known It" was Led Zeppelin-heavy. Mojo may not include a future rock radio classic, but these songs twisted and grooved with the best of them -- ticket holders were even given text-message access to a free download. Hopefully they were paying attention.

An acoustic rendition of "Learning to Fly" evoked the night's biggest crowd chorus, even if everyone's wings were soaked, and a final string of hits -- "Don't Come Around Here No More," "Refugee" -- led to the encore most folks were waiting for: "American Girl."

It may be subdued, even subtle, but Petty's mojo was in full throttle Saturday night.