Tom Petty’s summer show filled with hits

A review of Tom Petty at the Heartbreakers at the TD Banknorth Garden on June 3, 2008

, Managing Editor

Tom Petty didn’t break any hearts this past weekend, playing a hit-filled show at the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night. Petty and the Heartbreakers returned to Boston to play one of their two& old out gigs in Massachusetts over the weekend (they played another sold& out show at the Comcast center on& Saturday).

Delivering hit after hit, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer further entertained a crowd that was already buzzing after the recent Celtic victory, evidenced by the multiple “Beat LA!” chants. Petty recently released an album with his first band Mudcrutch, but Friday night it was all about the Heartbreakers.

Petty and the Heartbreakers took the stage at 9 pm to a roaring ovation, and it was no secret that the crowd was excited all night long. Petty, sporting a shaggy beard and purple velvet jacket, and band co-captain/lead guitarist Mike Campbell both appeared looking like that one cool uncle almost everyone has. The band immediately tore into “You Wreck Me Baby" from the 1994 album Wildflowers before playing the mega-hit “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, as several members of the audience took a dance with Mary Jane themselves.&

Shortly after, Petty surprised the crowd by playing the crowd-pleaser “Free Fallin’” early in the set, just the fifth song of the night. The adoring crowd sang along with every word, especially during the chorus as a white light shown over the arena. After the early highlight, Petty, who expressed his thanks throughout the show, took a moment to speak to the crowd, saying that Boston shows felt as if they were “playing to friends.” Petty seemed to be almost as in love with the crowd as they were with them as he had the lights brought up in order to see everyone after the next song “Honeybee”.&

In the middle of the set, the band took a break from their hits starting with the little-known track “Sweet William”, which Petty claimed was from a “German EP 10 years ago.” The song started slow, reuniting some people with their seats, the result of some spacey keyboards. However, many fans were back on their feet midway through when the band kicked it up a notch, proving that the tune was actually more of a rocker than ballad. Next, the band played the Travelling Wilbury’s “End of the Line” as Petty is accustomed to do during his shows.&

After the band intro Petty welcomed show-opener Steve Winwood back to the stage. Winwood played two of his own hits with the Heartbreakers, solving the mystery of why he omitted the tracks from his opening set. Winwood grabbed a guitar for “Can’t Find My Way Home” as he traded solos with Mike Campbell. Winwood then got the crowd buzzing more than any moment during his own set, taking to the organ for “Gimme Some Lovin’”. After Winwood’s exit, Petty and the Heartbreakers played “Saving Grace” from the band’s latest album Highway Companion and “A Face in the Crowd” before returning to some more familiar hits.&

The last leg of the Heartbreakers set was a steady string of well known songs. “Learning to Fly” followed “The Waiting” with Petty under the spotlight. The crowd took over on vocals while Petty enjoyed the moment, ad-libbing a bit. The crowd clapped along to “Don’t Come Around Here No More” which finished with an intense strobe light before “Refugee” closed out the main set.

The fans cheered for five minutes, patiently awaiting the band’s return to the stage. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” began the encore followed by a cover of the rock and roll standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” during which Petty once again did a bit of ad-libbing on the bridge. The night was capped off by “American Girl”, ending the two-hour set with patriotic images of stars and red, white, and blue.

With songs that never tire, genuine enthusiasm, and the right mind to play what the people want to hear, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers once again proved why they continue to pack shows after all these years. Nobody left the Garden unsatisfied last Friday night, even those who may have left with some cottonmouth and an unhealthy hunger for Doritos.&

Steve Winwood opened the show, returning to Boston for the first time since he accepted an honorary degree from Berklee College of Music in May. His set, largely comprised of new material, didn’t quite connect with the crowd. The few highlights of his set were old hits such as “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Higher Love”.

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