Rick Imamoto - Costa Mesa, California

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers burst onto the music scene out of Gainesville, Florida in the mid-seventies and soon, the youth of America strongly identified with songs like "American Girl" and "Breakdown." Petty and the Heartbreakers were soon established as a staple on classic rock radio stations across the country.

Petty is now on tour in support of his new solo album, "Full Moon Fever," which not surprisngly, has sprung three hit singles, "I Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'," and "Running Down A Dream." Although "Fever" was a solo project, Petty is out on tour with his backup band the Heartbreakers in full force, with lead guitarist extraordinaire, Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, drummer Stan Lynch and bassist Howie Epstein.

Playing against a rather unusual backdrop at the Pacific Amphitheatre, Petty and the Heartbreakers gave a rousing performance in front of a rather large and grotesque looking treehouse that looked like the home of the Swiss Family Robinson gone bonkers. The strange set took absolutely nothing away from what everyone showed up for, which was, of course, the music.

The Heartbreakers were loose in mood and tight in their musical cohesiveness with a comfort level that only happens after playing together for nearly two decades. Their vast song catalog was put out on display to the delight of the Pacific Amphitheatre crowd as "Even The Losers," Petty's underdog anthem from the breakthrough "Damn The Torpedoes" album was given an acoustic touch, with only Petty and his guitar opening the tune, and then gradually building into the familiar full force of the Heartbreakers cranking out the anthem.

Among the new songs, "Free Fallin" was warmly greeted, as was "Running Down a Dream," which had the whole joint a jukin' and a jumpin'. The Petty tradition of the audience singalong with "Breakdown" was not to broken on this night, as the crowd cleared out its vocal cords shouting out the lyrics to the moody, classic tune.

In a humorous moment, Petty delivered Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," but substituted the name "Axl" for the word "Heaven" in reference to his run in with Guns N Roses vocalist Axl Rose backstage at the MTV awards show.

Petty is constantly evolving chameleon of an artist who never stops altering his style, never afraid of taking chances in his songwriting craft. He has worked with a wide variety of artists, including Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, Lone Justice, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and of course, his cohorts from the Traveling Wilburys, Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne. In each instance he touched various new heights in musical creativity, breaking uncharted musical territory.

His songwriting has ranged from poignant and touching to angry and rebellious. He has overcome a tremendous share of personal adversity and near tragedies and still managed to inspire and keep a healthy sense of humor, keeping his feet and ego down to earth.

What summed up the concert for me, was Petty belting out the lyrics from the line that said:

"even the losers
keep a little bit a pride,
yeah,
they get lucky sometimes...
even the losers get lucky sometimes..."

Tom Petty. Musician. Heartbreaker. Champion of the underdog.

 

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