Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Target Center, 6/29/13
Photo by Tony Nelson
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Target Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Saturday night's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show at the Target Center didn't offer anything new in the way of what the band might be or where they are going. But it was a fairly fantastic two-hour set from an American legend in what would seem to be the twilight of an outstanding career. It sure didn't seem like it at any point during this final show of his current tour.
During this "hits" tour they came out fast and furious with a cover of the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'N Roll Star." From there they began hauling out the old favorites one by one. "Love Is a Long Road" and "I Won't Back Down," both from 1989's masterful Full Moon Fever, got the crowd plugged in for the night, singing along, clapping in the appropriate spots and so on. As always, that's the fun of Tom Petty's songs: They're earworms that you don't mind getting stuck in your head. All are deceptively simply arranged, and the lyrics -- which are often about lost love, troubled relationships, and people winning despite slim odds -- are often written as a short story, with a little metaphor to muddy the waters. The night's loudest sing-along came, unsurprisingly, with "Mary Jane's Last Dance," a song Petty had kicked around for years beginning with the Full Moon Fever sessions, with it finally surfacing on the band's 1993 Greatest Hits offering.
Photos by Tony Nelson
The set began to sag a bit in the middle with Petty and company offering up a few lesser-known and slower tracks, including "Cabin Down Below" and a cover of the Traveling WIlburys' "Tweeter and the Monkey Man." "Rebels" from 1985's Southern Accents put a stamp on the portion of the evening, making it seem for just a few minutes that the bottom had come out of the set and the far too long, roughly 12-minute version of "It's Good to Be King" did nothing to dispel that notion. It was certainly the night's strangest passage. The songs were good, but bunched together they were sleep-inducing and a bit of a bore.
Things picked back up again with "Learning to Fly" and a phenomenal version of "Yer So Bad" and just like that, the crowd was alert and singing along once more. The set ended with a slightly extended version of "Runnin' Down a Dream," that grade-A guitar hook still very much intact, guitarist Mike Campbell ripping through it like he likely has thousands of times in the past.
Photos by Tony Nelson
After a few minutes, the band came back out, and though they were visibly tired, cranked out a three-song encore that included a so-so version of "Don't Come Around Here No More," with the audience providing the "Hey!"s in the proper spots and ended the night with "American Girl," which was not the loudest crowd participation but was definitely the most fun. Long ago, Petty hit the mark with that song in 1979 and never really wavered from penning songs in that vein -- simple in both arrangement and subject matter, the lyrics written so they could be about almost anyone. It seems like an easy idea, but Petty has just made it look like that for the last 37 years; getting to and then staying in the rarefied air in which he has lived for so long is incredibly difficult. He's not a legend by default or by accident. He's worked hard to make it look easy and deserves more praise than he gets.
Critic's Bias: This was my first time seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and aside from the weird passage in the middle, I could not have asked for a better first live experience from him. Singing along with 14,000 other people to songs that I sing along to alone in my car when they pop up was so fun I could hardly stand it.
The Crowd: Skewed older, but there were many younger people in attendance as well; some were adults with their parents. It was a testament to the staying power and universal appeal of the band.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I hope they play [insert song here.]" Most people received their wishes.
Random Tidbit: There was a very drunk man in his mid-40s who furiously danced barefoot in the aisle next to me and sang along to every song for nearly the entire show, stopping only twice to smoke pot with his wife/girlfriend. He implored everyone around him to "get into it!" and yelled at Petty to play particular songs throughout the set. I've never seen anyone, anywhere as excited about a show as he was on Saturday.
So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star (The Byrds cover)
Love Is a Long Road
I Won't Back Down
Baby, Please Don't Go (Big Joe Williams cover)
Here Comes My Girl
Mary Jane's Last Dance
A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)
Cabin Down Below
Tweeter and the Monkey Man (Traveling Wilburys cover)
It's Good to Be King
Learning to Fly
Yer So Bad
I Should Have Known It
Runnin' Down a Dream
Don't Come Around Here No More
You Wreck Me
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