Tom Petty is the real deal …
In an age where ageing Rock stars more often than not mail in performances, Petty with his band of Heartbreakers – as refreshing as a sea breeze on a hot and humid day.
The sixty-three year old Petty, on tour with his latest album Hypnotic Eye – took the stage at 9pm with a statement which set the stage ( so to speak) for an evening void of pretentiousness.
” We are going to give you a Rock ‘ Roll show …” Claimed Tom. ” It may be long. Better call the babysitter …”
Starting with a cover of the Byrds’ tune; So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star – Petty and his mates were powerful. A garage band with all amplifiers cranked to the max. A garage band one phone call away from a late night police visit. A garage band with smoke emerging through the cracks.
Petty himself, a throwback to the seventies. In speak, in appearance and most importantly – in attitude. Think of ‘The Dude’ in the film The Big Lebowski. Now – think of ‘The Dude’ with a guitar in his hands and a Dylan-esque voice. The sum of all parts becomes Tom Petty. A Rock singer who appears ‘surprised’ and ‘at ease’ in front of a large crowd. A songwriter who may be the ‘last guitar man standing’.
As Petty swash-buckled his way through ‘ Mary Janes Last Dance’, American Dream Plan B’ ( from his recent album Hypnotic Eye) and the foot tapping (stomping) cover of Big Joe Williams’ ‘Baby Please Don’t Go'; thoughts of Springsteen, Dylan and Neil Young circled the Bell Center in Montreal. Tom Petty a combination of all three yet so unique and legendary. A survivor from the 1970’s with a smoke-filled bong intact.
‘Into the Great Wide Open’ book-ended ‘Mary Jane’ with a sneer of nostalgia while ‘Forgotten Man’ (off Hypnotic Eye) reeked of a Bo Diddley nostalgic rhythm. Refreshing since ‘American Dream Plan B’ was dull and ineffective and signaled the demise of Petty’s recent songwriting ability. ‘Forgotten Man’ allowed a sigh of relief into the room as did ‘You Get Me High” ( the latest single) later on. Petty’s songwriting intact.
‘I Won’t Back Down’ was the evening’s anthem. A biographical statement on the part of Petty and more so as the years pass by. A finger to authority if there ever was one; the audience ‘au Centre Bell’ agreed. On their feet, singing, waving and embracing it as their own personal scripture. The former ‘Wilbury’, perhaps sensing a ‘capturing’ of the crowd; traveled once more into his vast catalog. The opening chords of ‘Free Fallin’ sealed the deal and pushed everyone who may have been ‘on the fence’ – into the waiting arms of Tom, The Heartbreakers and ‘Mary Jane’.
Much like the Stones, Dylan and The Beatles – Petty’s compositions are all about the songs. No drum solos, lengthy guitar ego-boosters and not a lot of banter. A man, his buddies and some tunes gather, sing and maybe loot and pillage. The only thing raped? Society and it’s hideous mask of rules and regulations.
‘A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me),’You Get Me High‘, ‘Rebels‘ and ‘Yer So Bad‘ – settled everyone in the seriousness and respect Petty has earned. For those only aware of ‘the hits’, a foursome complete with the gamete of balladry and rockers. Four songs which led into the homestretch. A home-run trot led by anthem number two …
‘Learning to Fly’ is the type of song identifiable by all ages. Everyone has endured, is enduring or yearns to endure the coming -of-age rite. The time where parents and / or their rules are shredded for independence. Petty sings the song with an underlying melancholy. A subterranean message of hope sets the audience’s heart adroit with nods of approval amid primal instincts.
Shadow people, will sing their heads
In the corner next to you
When the light is red
‘Shadow People”s words rang true. At the beginning, in the middle and near the end of the show. Everyone – singing their heads into submission. A ‘choir’ leading into ‘I Should Have Known It’, ‘Refugee’ and the show stopper; ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’. The latter? As perfect as a Rock song could be. A Menacing riff with a hard pounding drum beat, complimented by Petty’s uncanny vocal ability. A ‘gift’ to sound urgent and mellow at the same time and place. A feature saved for few.
Even the most jaded forty-and-up partisans at The Bell Center overcame their fear of the demise of Rock n Roll last night.
The exclusion of mega-hits ‘ Don’t Come Around Here No More’, ‘Breakdown’, ‘Here Comes My Girl’ and ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ ( among many others) did not dampen ‘the spirits’ of young and old alike. Petty and The Heartbreakers continued the ‘lesson’ in Rock n Roll with ‘ You Wreck Me’ and a perfect cover of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone. A duo fit for the evening’s finale.
American Girl was and is – the quintessential rock song. Complete with a theme on the mind of every boy (man?) on the planet. A rough guitar complimented by Petty’s non-threatening vocal style. Petty’s coup? Maybe or maybe not. Does it really matter …?
Stay tuned for Part two of my interview with Grand Fatilla!