Early on in Tom Petty's sold-out Madison Square Garden gig last night he uttered words rarely heard at his shows: "You probably don't know this next one." The band then launched into the super obscure 1999 Europe-only B side "Sweet William." The bluesy, organ-heavy number was a clear indication this wasn't going to be the typical nothing-but-the-hits Petty show he's done on recent tours. With no new album to support, Petty was free to drag out the gems.
This doesn't mean he avoided his massive arsenal of hits. The show began with a 1-2-3-4-5 punch of "You Wreck Me," "Last Dance With Mary Jane," "I Won't Back Down," "Even The Losers" and "Free Fallin'." Nearly anyone else would save a song like the latter — which is so tailor made for arenas even the beer guys and ushers were singing along — but Petty has such a huge stable of war horses he could bust it out early with no problem. Rarities soon followed, such as the Traveling Wilburys' "End of the Line," which featured a few Heartbreakers subbing in for Petty's absent bandmates and the Full Moon Fever track "A Face in the Crowd."
Opening act Steve Winwood — who last played the Garden a few months ago during his reunion shows with Eric Clapton — came out midway through Petty's set and led the Heartbreakers on killer versions of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" and the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Loving," which featured blazing organ work by Winwood. Around this point it became abundantly clear that the Heartbreakers are one of the greatest backing bands out there. Any song is immeasurably enhanced by their playing, particularly guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. It's no wonder they get so much session work when Petty is off the road.
The night wrapped up with the hit parade of "Learning to Fly," "Don't Come Around Here No More," "Refugee" and the inevitable encore of "American Girl." He's probably played that song at every concert for over 30 years, but he still does it with intense passion and it still can make an arena full of drunk middle-aged white people jump up and down like nothing short of "Born to Run." For the past few years Petty's insisted his days of long tours are coming to an end. Hopefully he's bluffing.
"You Wreck Me"
"Mary Jane's Last Dance"
"I Won't Back Down"
"Even the Losers"
"Cabin Down Below"
"End of the Line"
"Can't Find My Way Home"
"Gimme Some Loving"
"Face in the Crowd"
"You Don't Know How It Feels"
"Learning to Fly"
"Don't Come Around Here No More"
"Runnin' Down a Dream"
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