Flashback: Tom Petty Plays a Rare Solo Acoustic ‘American Girl’ in 1986
Earlier this month, Bruce Springsteen released his October 13th, 1986, acoustic set at the Bridge School Benefit as an official live download. The hotly anticipated set was his first major performance since the end of the Born in the U.S.A. tour a year earlier. With Springsteen backed only by guitarist Nils Lofgren and organist Danny Federici, it features stripped-down renditions of “Fire,” “Glory Days,” “Mansion on the Hill,” and others. The set has circulated in bootleg circles for years, but the sound quality has never been this good even though they had to use some fan recordings to fill in missing segments from the master tape.
Also on the bill that night were CSNY, Lofgren, Don Henley, Robin Williams, and Tom Petty. The Heartbreakers leader spent that year on an amazing co-headlining tour with Bob Dylan, but he began his Bridge School set totally by himself. Watch him open up with “American Girl,” one of the few times he ever played the song in public without any members of the Heartbreakers. Keep watching to see him play Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” the Damn the Torpedoes deep cut “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid),” and “The Waiting” before bringing out Heartbreakers pianist Benmont Tench to join him for “It’ll All Work Out” from the yet-to-be-released Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) and a finale of “Twist and Shout.”
The show ended with everyone from the show performing “Teach Your Children,” even Robin Williams. It’s the only time that Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen ever played together. The whole show is really worthy of official release someday. On that same note, there really should also be a Tom Petty equivalent to the Bruce Springsteen live download series. He never changed around his set list from night to night like Springsteen does, but his estate is still sitting on a mountain of concert recordings from his four-decade career. Why not start pumping it out to fans?