I would like to take this moment to blame Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for my insomnia. Since the band released their Hypnotic Eye album in July, I have been waking up in the middle of the night to guitar riffs from “American Dream Plan B,” “Red River” and “Fault Lines” swirling around my head. After seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the American Airlines Center on Friday night, I might as well not even try to go to bed. The band turned in a straight-forward and masterful set that will have me, and countless others, wired for days.
“You better call the babysitter,” Petty said. “He’s looking a little wacky; this could take a while.” Indeed, Petty and band were in no rush to deliver their two-hour set of new songs and fan favorites. Given that every ticket to the show came with a digital download of Hypnotic Eye, it wasn’t surprising that Petty’s new material was very well received. In fact, performances of “American Dream Plan B,” “U Get Me High,” “Forgotten Man,” and “Shadow People” fit into the set so well that the songs felt like instant classics.
Long-time fans got their fair share of favorites, as well. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Free Fallin'” had the entire audience on choir duty. It was ironic when Petty asked the crowd if they felt like singing prior to “I Won’t Back Down” since they had been doing just that from the start of the show.
As expected, guitarist Mike Campbell tore up the stage with his guitar work. His calm demeanor was similar to a wolf in sheep’s clothing as he electrified the crowd with his blazing solos. Just as entertaining were his interactions with fans near the front of the stage. You could definitely tell that Campbell was having fun.
Benmont Tench, who recently put out an album of his own, shined on piano especially during a solo lead-in to the bittersweet rocker, “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me).”
Halfway through the show, a fan in front called out for Stevie Nicks. A reference to Petty’s show in Dallas a few years back when Nicks surprisingly joined Petty on stage. “Sorry, I don’t have her,” Petty joked. “Unfortunately for you, I made the program this evening.” That said, it was a program that rocked from beginning to end. Even the quieter moments of the show had a captivating aura. A scaled down, acoustic version of “Rebels” had Petty promising and delivering a quiet moment with “cosmic rewards.”
This review would not be complete without a mention of the opening act, Steve Winwood. The iconic rocker, with grey pirate-like sideburns, served up a hearty platter of groove-a-licious jams. At one point in the show, Winwood and his four-piece band had been jamming so long that a crew member had to come onto the stage mid-song to replace the incense. Winwood dug deep into his catalog, performing “vintage” cuts from his Blind Faith, Traffic and Spencer Davis Group days. There was also a jazzed up version of Winwood’s solo hit, “Higher Love.”
The jams could have gone on all night, and in some respects, for me and my insomnia, they will. Oh well, sleep is overrated. But Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Steve Winwood definitely aren’t.
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