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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 25, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 34
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers don't back down after 40 years together
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers don't back down after 40 years together

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS
SAFECO FIELD
August 19


Longer than some of us have been alive, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been cranking out hits - initially, from their original home base of Gainesville, Florida and later from Northern California, where their tall and lanky frontman settled down.

The group, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, are touring this year particularly to commemorate their 40th anniversary that included a stop at Safeco Field last weekend. Loyal fans of various ages, including many who were parents and grandparents out on a date night, packed the baseball stadium to see and hear one of America's truest legendary bands.

Strolling on stage promptly at 9pm, the boys went right to work by ripping into 'Rockin' Around (With You),' the first track from their very first album, 1976's self-titled release. They followed that up with a classic, a song many had on their wish list, 'Last Dance with Mary Jane'; appropriately, ticketholders on the field - and quite possibly around the venue - lit up a joint while it was played.

'Long time, no see,' said Petty, dressed in charcoal-colored jeans, light purple shirt, gray sport coat, white hi-top sneakers, shades and his trademark shaggy hair split down the middle. 'It's good to see you again, Seattle!' Because this tour marks a special occasion, he told every one that 'we can drop the needle anywhere we want to.' And that they did, performing songs from throughout the group's four decade-long career, including 'Forgotten Man' from 2014's Hypnotic Eye, their most recent recording.

As is always the case, the crowd sang along to everything Petty and the Heartbreakers unloaded on Saturday night, from 'Into the Great Wide Open' to 'You Don't Know How It Feels' to an extended version of 'Don't Come Around Here No More' that featured excellent guitar jams by Petty and Mike Campbell, a legend in his own right.

A panel of blue light bulbs hung directly over the stage during 'Free Fallin',' one of the band's signature hits that is guaranteed to be on their set list for every show. In the six times I've seen them live, it's been played each time. Another fan favorite, 'I Won't Back Down,' saw a common sighting at any Petty concert - colorful beach balls - being punched into the air around the field.

From his second album, Wildflowers, Petty performed about a minute of 'Crawling Back to You' before the speakers went out, although the band wasn't informed about the sound malfunction until afterwards. This led to an unexpected five-minute break before everybody returned to the stage and delighted us with acoustic renditions of 'Wildflowers' and 'Learning to Fly'; vintage photos of the musicians were displayed on a billboard-sized screen behind the drum set during the last number. But the evening's top highlight was a surprisingly gorgeous, extended delivery of 'It's Good to Be King' that was simultaneously melodramatic and uplifting.

The main set wrapped up with two huge Petty and the Heartbreakers gems, 'Refugee' and 'Runnin' Down a Dream.' Returning for an encore, the group played 'You Wreck Me' and 'American Girl,' which inspired lots of concertgoers to cram the forbidden aisles of the field and party like college kids, disobeying the orders of the attendants to return to their assigned seats.

As the band bowed their heads to screaming cheers, a series of bright fireworks were lit into the dark sky above Safeco Field. And why not, this amazingly good performance from one of rock's greatest acts deserved it. In peak form after four long decades, I can overlook the absence of Petty concert staples, like 'The Waiting' and 'You Got Lucky,' at Saturday's concert because everything the group did perform was pretty much epic. If you're going to commemorate 40 years together, this is how you do it!

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