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Once upon a time...at Yasgur's farm (8/16a)
This is no ordinary doorstop. (8/15a)
But things will liven up soon. (8/16a)
The biz is getting its game face on. (8/16a)
More speculation over lox and bagels (8/16a)
Seriously, we can't take off any more clothes at the office.
Nothing doing.       
Well, what do YOU want?      
Badly needed.     
Critics' Choice

By Bud Scoppa

I’m not inspired to go out a lot—been there, done that—but when one of the best rock & roll bands of all time, fronted by one of the greatest songwriters of all time, plays a show at a nearby venue, I show up. The fact that this show was taking place at the tail end of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour, in front of their hometown crowd at the Hollywood Bowl—the second of three sellouts—brought additional resonance to the occasion. It was an opportunity to appreciate the long-running greatness of these artists in their natural domain—the amphitheater.

Decked out in a fringed buckskin jacket a la Buffalo Springfield-vintage Neil Young, Petty seemed positively giddy as he took the stage, slurring and chuckling like a stoner Dean Martin. The surprise opener Friday night was the rarely performed “Rockin’ Around With You,” which Petty introduced as “the first song on our very first album.” As the Heartbreakers cranked it out, I was reminded of the first time I heard the song, which struck me at the time as being cut from the same proto-power-pop cloth as “I’m on Fire” by their Tulsa-based Shelter Records labelmates the Dwight Twilley Band. (My first impression was that these guys were pretty good too.)

From there, the night’s setlist (which has differed very little from night to night on the five-month tour) drew heavily from Petty’s two classic solo LPs, 1989’s Full Moon Fever (the newly topical “I Won’t Back Down,” a singalong “Free Fallin’,” “Yer So Bad” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”) and 1994’s Wildflowers (“You Don’t Know What It’s Like,” “You Wreck Me,” “It’s Good to Be King,” the title song and, unexpectedly, the poignant “Crawling Back to You”). The most recent selections were “Forgotten Man” from 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, which has taken on newfound relevance in the context of Trump, and a blistering “I Should’ve Known It” from 2010’s Mojo. They naturally trotted out the most undeniable showstoppers from the Heartbreakers’ deep catalog: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Refugee,” “Into the Great Wide Open,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and the show-ending “American Girl.”

What was striking about the 18-song set was what it didn’t contain—classics like “The Waiting,” “Breakdown,” “Listen to Her Heart,” “Fooled Again,” “You Got Lucky,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Even the Losers,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”…I could go on. For comparison’s sake, the Bowl show and the intimate performance I witnessed at the Fonda in June 2013 had only six songs in common, but the last five in each set—showstoppers all—were identical.

The Heartbreakers were magnificent, as always, starting with Mike Campbell, who has few equals in terms of his song-serving versatility on six- and 12-string guitars, bringing the jangle to “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “American Girl,” gliding through a regal extended solo on “It’s Good to Be King” and firing of meaty slabs of blooze-rock riffage on “I Should’ve Known It.” Decked out Friday night in broad-brimmed hat and long coat while peering out over the top of his round-framed shades, Campbell was atypically as he shared the front of the stage with his longtime compadre, who offered up, as he does every night, a Springsteen-like tall tale about the pair’s first meeting.

Bent over his bank of keyboards on stage left, the wizardly Benmont Tench is the subtlest contributor to the band’s sound, but it wouldn’t be the Heartbreakers without “Benmont’s magic fingers,” as Petty once put it. Steve “New Guy” Ferrone, a proponent of the Charlie Watts “less is more” school of groove, is a force of nature behind the drum kit. And the Webb Sisters, two Brits who formerly backed Leonard Cohen, enriched the backing harmonies as they blended their voices with utility man and unofficial Heartbreaker Scott Thurston.

There’s not a more reliable live act in showbiz, nor is there a band with a more massive repertoire. But this was not a night for deep explorations, it was a night of celebration. And Petty and the Heartbreakers were as celebratory in their flawless performance as the ecstatic, 18,000-strong crowd.    

9/22/17 Hollywood Bowl setlist

  1. Rockin' Around (With You)
  2. Mary Jane's Last Dance
  3. You Don't Know How It Feels
  4. Forgotten Man
  5. I Won't Back Down
  6. Free Fallin'
  7. Into the Great Wide Open
  8. Don't Come Around Here No More
  9. It's Good to Be King
  10. Crawling Back to You
  11. Wildflowers
  12. Learning to Fly
  13. Yer So Bad
  14. I Should Have Known It
  15. Refugee
  16. Runnin' Down a Dream


  1. You Wreck Me
  2. American Girl