Concert Review: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

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Eden Frost

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Honda Center

7 October 2014


Tom Petty took the stage last night at Anaheim’s Honda Center with all the eagerness and excitement as ever, telling the audience we were in for a “full-length, extra-strength, American rock and roll show!” And followed up by saying “I feel like playing. This might go long tonight!” And long it went.

The audience was primed and ready to rock after a powerful set played by opener Steve Winwood, who covered some of his hits, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Gimme Some Lovin’ .” The set lasted about 40 minutes and was the perfect blend of powerful piano and rhythmic guitar playing to get everyone pumped for Petty.

The crowd could barely contain themselves when Tom and the Heartbreakers took the stage and started playing a cover of The Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” and really lost it when they heard the familiar gritty opening chords of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” The 63-year-old rocker played an impressive 17 song set with a double encore, making for 19 full-length, extra-strength rock songs for everyone to jam and dance along to. Petty played music from his and the Heartbreakers’ latest album, Hypnotic Eye, released this past July, as well as mixing in his solo work and playing tribute to some of his favorite artists. (The full set can be seen at

In between songs, Petty joked around with the audience and took time to introduce his songs, giving a little background to each of them. When introducing his hit “Into the Great Wide Open,” Petty said he would be taking us back to the year 1991. The crowd let out an ectatic roar and Petty joked that this “must be a big year for you people” and added that this song was his only memory from that year. With laughter and eager ears, the audience clamored for Petty to keep singing.

Again he addressed the audience asking to get some light shone on this “rowdy bunch” so he could see us all. With everyone’s attention even more focused on him, he asked if we would like to join him and suggested we sing this next one together. Seconds later the entire Honda Center was belting out the lyrics to “I Won’t Back Down”.

Coming off the energetic high of singing with Tom, he took a moment to remember a band that greatly influenced him and the Heartbreakers and played tribute to the late Paul Revere, from Paul Revere and The Raiders, who passed away last week by playing one of their songs “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

When it came time for Tom to introduce his fellow band mates, the audience got a glimpse at how much this silly and soulful singer loves the guys he’s been playing with for so long. “Let’s give a big thanks to my buddies the Heartbreakers!” He shouted before going into personal stories and introductions for each of the members.

Petty mentioned how this is the first full length American tour the group has done in a few years. They have been playing the festival circuit lately, headlining San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival this last August, and Bonnaroo in Tennessee the previous summer. We could tell he was excited to be back in a place full of people all focused and drawn to him and his band. And I will say his performance last night was just as strong, though maybe not as fun and lively as it was when I saw him playing outdoors at Bonnaroo.

Petty made the rounds with his Heartbreakers introducing drummer Steve Ferrone who is the “new guy” to the group, having only played 20 years with them, Petty joked.  He and this next bandmate have been friends for long time, Petty said. In 70s they had girlfriends that knew each other and even though the girlfriends didn’t last, their friendship has and here was Ron Blair on the bass. When it came to introducing famed keyboardist and pianist Benmont Tench, Petty was sure to address the many accolades that have come his way and offer his own thanks and praise for the keyboardist. And lastly, Petty introduced his “oldest friend in the world,” guitarist Mike Campbell, who Petty started playing with 44 years ago in 1970.

The introductions followed with Tench going into a slow piano number that led into “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)”. They played more from their new album with the track “U Get Me High” and for those in the audience that weren’t under the influence of any mind altering substances, the backdrop did it’s duty in getting the audience high with psychedelic patterns and tye-dye colors swirling over the curtains draped behind the musicians.

The music mellowed out for a moment when Petty started an acoustic version of “Rebel” off the album Southern Accents. He told us that if we “listen closely there’s huge cosmic rewards” and he was right. People swayed as his voice soothed the crowd and soon he was talking to us again about the process of writing music.

“People ask me how I write a song.” He said. He admitted that he doesn’t really have a straightforward answer, but that he starts with a strum of his guitar and this strum went into a vigorous version of one of my personal favorite songs, “Yer So Bad.”

Petty kept playing and the backdrop changed with the music. A sky blue setting took over with “Learning to Fly” and Petty’s attitude picked up in “I Should Have Known It” as he shook maracas and threw them down on the stage as he let out the lyric “Well it’s over now, you see. It’s the last time you’re gonna hurt me.”

A few songs later and the set was coming to an end with “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” The standing ovation lasted for several minutes and people started pulling out lighters and their smart phone flashes to make a shine, calling Tom and his pals back on stage for an encore which they gladly delivered.

Before busting into his song “You Wreck Me”, Tom and the Heartbreakers gave a genuine and whole hearted thanks to all of us in the audience for being there and sharing this time and love of music with him. He closed the show with “American Girl” accompanied by a red, white and blue light show and even though the sound system started to glitch, the band played through the squeaking speakers and finished the show on a high note.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play in LA  this Friday October 11th and Saturday October 12th at the Forum.