Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI - July 20th, 2005)
Upon the release of their first album in the late '70s, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were shoehorned into the punk/new wave movement by some observers, who picked up on the tough, vibrant energy of the group's blend of Byrds riffs and Stonesy swagger.
Nowadays, well, they're a sound all of their own and a sold-out Michigan crowd were here to prove their own undying love for the traditionalist American rock & rollers.
Taking the stage all at once, Petty and his versatile backing band laugh and joke between themselves, before getting down to business without much further ado. Knocking the first three classic Petty songs out of the park ('Listen To Her Heart,' 'You Don't Know Who It Feels,' and 'Breakdown'), Petty thanks the packed house for their presence by putting his hands together in a prayer-like position, before cranking out 'Don't Do Me Like That,' 'Free Fallin,' and 'I Won't Back Down.'
Then, after a rousing 'Last Dance With Mary Jane' he has the house lights turned on: "These are the greatest days of my life. Walking out here and seeing all you guys there. Thank you so much." Unfortunately, he follows that acclaim with a plodding version of an old Animals song, 'I'm Cryin' before getting back on track again.
Petty and his mates - one of the few famous for embracing music videos back in the day - have continual filmed images of themselves beamed up behind them on the huge, always brightly-lit back drop. Bringing 'Handle With Care' to the fore next, complete with glittering snow-like sparkles adorning the stage, Petty introduces the band.
After curtailing the energetic mood of the audience slightly by trotting out two slowly-melodic cuts from their Wildflower album ("We never got to do them on that tour, so it feels right to do them now, I guess," he explains), he's suddenly back playing ("Here's one you'll all enjoy") an extended piano version of 'Melinda.'
'Learning To Fly' brings us into the final bend of the show, and includes a house lights-on, everyone clapping in sync, last chorus, before having blown some kisses to the crowd, Petty strides into 'Give It Up' - complete with massive strobe light effects that would have driven any epileptic over the edge faster than a crack-addicted squirrel searching for nuts in an acorn factory!
Ending the main portion of the show with the singalong 'Live Like A Refugee' and the upbeat 'Running Down A Dream,' Petty and his gang of merry men are finally gone after an exhilarating hour and thirty-five minutes of performing.
Taking the encore in their stride, they quickly come back with 'You Wreck Me' - a song sounding more like Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan could ever have attempted himself - and followed that up with 'American Girl.' And then, just like that, the show was over, leaving close to twenty-two thousand people (and Dennis Ryan and friends!) more than happy at where their hard earned money had gone for the night!
Review and Photos by Russell A. Trunk