To say that Tom Petty had a legendary career is an understatement, but that is how he should be remembered. I was lucky enough to catch his 40th anniversary (and final) tour earlier this year at a packed St. Louis arena. It was a solid show with many great tracks throughout it.
Petty’s songs are a part of Americana even if you didn’t grow up in the 1970’s or 1970’s. He could play everything from garage rock to country blues, and his influence on music reaches around the globe.
Many forget his great contributions to music videos. Petty was a known lover of music videos, and he and his band came to prominence as MTV skyrocketed in popularity and outreach. Petty took an active role in the scripts, art, and filming of his music videos and made some of the more innovative ones of the time.
Not many of us get to do what we love for forty years, let alone receive worldwide accolades for it. It’s okay to mourn Petty, but don’t let it ruin you. He lived and he rocked. Do the same.
My wife and I honeymooned in St. Louis twenty years ago, and we ended up back there for our twentieth anniversary. It was great timing because not only were we going to see the Cubs play the Cardinals (Cardinals win 5-3), but we also had tickets to see rock legends Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Joe Walsh. Tom Petty has been high on my wife’s bucket list for years. She’s also a big fan of the Eagles, so the addition of Joe Walsh was a win-win.
Mr. Walsh came out with nine people in his band behind him, including four back-up singers and two drummers. He quickly got to work with “Meadows” and then dialed up “Ordinary Average Guy.” You could tell he was having fun by then. He threw down “The Bomber” by the James Gang (“Was part of that from Bolero?” My wife asked. Answer: “Yes.”) and made my wife cry when he played “Take It to the Limit” and dedicated it to Glenn Frey. “In the City” hits harder live than you expect it will, and people went nuts for “Life’s Been Good.”
I was yelling “Golden throat!” by this point, and sure enough he ended with “Rocky Mountain Way.” It’s easy to forget how good a guitarist Walsh is. He can still shred and the golden throat effects on this track are still fun after all these years.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers started their set with the first song off their first album – “Rockin’ Around (with You).” They unleashed “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” next and played it so well and with such fervor that it could’ve been the encore. “I could go home right now,” my wife said as we sat there with our mouths hanging open in stunned appreciation.
They tore through many of their biggest hits, including “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Freefallin'” (a big crowd favorite). Two surprises were “It’s Good to Be King” and the lovely, acoustic “Wildflowers.”
“Refugee” slayed the place, and the band was firing on all cylinders by this point. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” was almost a full-on psychedelic mind trip with its accompanying visuals.
There was a nice salute to hometown hero Chuck Berry when they played “Carol,” and they ended, no surprise, with “American Girl,” which had everyone jumping. It was a great end to a wonderful set. It’s hard to believe Petty and his band are on a 40th anniversary tour, because many of his songs still sound so fresh.
Keep your mind open.
[Don’t be a refugee from updates. Subscribe today!]