This past Sunday I went to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their 40th Anniversary Concert Tour at Royal Farms Arena. It’s the third time I’ve seen Tom Petty live, but the first time I’ve managed to stay for the entire set. The first time I saw him was on the Wildflowers tour back when I was in high school. I went with my friends, my sister, and her boyfriend. My sister insisted on leaving before the encore and since her boyfriend drove we all wound up having to leave on her whim. A few years ago I went to one day of the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware. The day we went Tom Petty was the headliner, but this time I was the one who wanted to leave before it was over. He didn’t go on until almost midnight and we had an almost 2 hour drive home, so I wanted to cut out before the crowd left and resulted in us spending that long just trying to get out of the parking lot.
I’ve loved Tom Petty for a long time. I always say that my first indication that my love of my music was more shall we say intense and different than my friends should have been that while all my middle school aged friends were freaking out over NKOTB, I was over in the corner in love with Tom Petty’s song “Won’t Back Down”. Full Moon Fever was one of the first CDs I ever bought. Tom Petty is the only artist for whom I owned a box set. And I’ve long said that if I played baseball my walk up song would be “American Girl”. So basically what I’m saying is my love for Tom Petty is long and deep. So I was very excited to get to celebrate this milestone with him.
The opener was Peter Wolf formerly of the J. Geils Band so I found out. My husband was astonished I didn’t know that, but I said I never really cared for the J. Geils Band. There is something about their sound that I find off-putting. That held true listening to his set. I have no idea how many of the songs he played were J. Geils stuff versus his solo stuff because I only recognized one song, but certainly the songs that had that J. Geils feel to them I liked much less than the other ones.
Tom Petty’s set however was A+. It was like it was custom made for me. He did mostly just play his big hits, so it’s not like I was looking for him to dig very deep. However, there were a few pulls that I had hoped he’d play that I never dreamed he would. I have always loved the song “Yer So Bad”. I mean it was a single, so it had radio play but I don’t think it was ever a huge hit so I never really expected him to play it. I was super delighted when he did.
Wildflowers is decidedly my favorite Tom Petty album, and from what I read in his biography by Warren Zanes, which I highly recommend reading if you’re a Tom Petty fan, Tom Petty also views it as his best work. Thus I wasn’t super surprised that in addition to playing a couple of other songs from the album at other points in the show, he did a mini-set of songs from the Wildflowers album in the middle of the show. In addition to the title song, which is probably my favorite Tom Petty song ever, and “It’s Good to Be King”, he also played “Crawling Back to You”. As he pointed out it was a song that was never released as a single and thus something they rarely play. It’s definitely my second favorite song off of Wildflowers and might rank that high among all his songs for me. Until I was singing along with it, I had forgotten that I actually had used some lyrics from that song as my email signature my freshman year of college. I could not be happier that I got to hear him play it live.
The rest of the show was basically a string of hit singles spanning from the opening song they played, “Rockin’ Around (With You)”, which is the first song they ever recorded up through his most recent single from 2014, “The Forgotten Man”. It was one giant sing-a-long for 2+ hours. It was so much fun and was exactly what I was hoping for in the show.
I don’t know if he’ll stick to it or not, but I did read going into this tour that Tom Petty said he suspects it will be his last big tour. When he chooses to play live it will be some one off shows in smaller clubs. If this does wind up being his last big hurrah, he’s going out on a hell of a high note and I’m glad I got to be there for it.