Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made a triumphant return to Winnipeg's MTS Centre on Aug. 21, 2014. Performing in the city for the first time since June 19, 2010, the multi-Platinum selling rockers are currently flying high with their latest studio album Hypnotic Eye, which topped the charts in North America on its debut week and became the highest charting album of their career.
Packing one of rock's most enviable back catalogues along with arguably one of the best backing bands around, which includes: lead guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboard whiz Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Scott Thurston and drummer Steve Ferrone, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and company treated Winnipeg to a night of hits, beloved album tracks, fav covers, and deeps cuts from a storied career that has spanned four decades. Unlike most of his peers from the 70s, who, though still touring, have become essentially oldies acts, the veteran Florida rocker's current music and performance remains fresh and vital.
Following an inspired and well received set by veteran British rocker Steve Winwood, Petty and The Heartbreakers kicked off the night's festivities with a cover of The Byrd's "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," first recorded by the band on 1985's live album Pack Up the Plantation. Petty wasted no time, following up with the instantly familiar chord pattern of his 1993 hit "Mary Jane's Last Dance," which had the large multi-generational audience on their feet and roaring its approval.
Earning more cheers via the announcement that the band was enjoying their stay in Winnipeg and planned to play "a looong time," Petty, launched into "America Plan B," a rough and ready garage rocker and the opening track from their new critically acclaimed album Hypnotic Eye. The song was the first of four tracks from the album that would eventually make the setlist.
An uncharacteristically long introduction proceed the performance of the title track of their 1991 album Into the Great Wide Open, which included a story about actor Johnny Depp (who starred in the song's video) along with one of Petty's best deadpan lines of the night, "We haven't played this song live for a real long time - that ain't necessarily a good thing!" Petty changes guitars almost every song (major eye candy for guitar buffs) and usually tends to avoid further dead air between numbers by keeping his mike chatter fairly brief and allowing the music do the talking for him.
The Bo Diddley-ish "Forgotten Man," (another solid track from Hypnotic Eye), proceeded two of the night's biggest and best received songs, "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Falling" from Petty's massively successful 1989 solo album Full Moon Rising.
Winnipeg fans then got treated to a couple of songs only played sporadically performed on the tour. This included a cover of The Raiders' (preceeded the Monkees version) of the hit "Not Your Steppin' Stone," a doff of the hat to Raiders' founding member Paul Revere who recently retired from touring due to poor health, as well as Petty's 1981 single "Woman In Love (It's Not Me).
Following a performance of the Hypnotic Eye lead single "U Get Me High," Petty donned his acoustic for two of the nights highlights, the haunting "Rebels," from 1985's Southern Accents and a cover of the late great Little Feat frontman Lowell George's ode to truck drivers "Willin'." Still on acoustic, Petty then led the crowd in a pair of sing-alongs with the Full Moon Fever fav "Yer So Bad" and 1991's "Learning to Fly."
Another Hypnotic Eye track ("Shadow People") along with an inclusion from 2010's Mojo ("I Should Have Known Better") set the stage for Petty's set closers, which included his 1980 Damn the Torpedoes classic "Refugee," a fourth Full Moon Fever addition, the album's second single "Runnin' Down a Dream" followed by Petty's 1994 Wildflower rocker "You Wreck Me" and his 1977 classic "American Girl" as encore songs.
Much revered British blues- rock veteran and regular Petty tour-mate Steve Winwood kicked off the evening with a 10-song set, which provided a brief cross-section of his illustrious 50-year career. Booking ending the sets with a pair of hits from his days as lead singer for the Spencer Davis Group, ("I'm A Man" & "Gimme Some Lovin'"), the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's pipes proved as strong and soulful as ever as he performed tracks from his days with short-lived 60s supergroup Blind Faith ("Can't Find My Way Home") along with fav covers ("Them Changes" "Fly") and his multi-Grammy winning solo hit "Higher Love." The lion's share of the set focused on Winwood's Traffic days, as the multi-talented singer shifted easily from organ to lead guitar on prog-rock classics such as "Medicated Goo," "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," "Empty Pages" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy."
The tour's next stop will be on Aug. 23 in Chicago's United Center. The next Canadian show is on Aug. 27 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. For more details, click here.