Choosing between 40 years’ worth of material for a band as prolific as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers must have been a painstaking task, but for about two hours, all the fans who sold out Wrigley Field (and those on the surrounding streets) were given a fairly comprehensive retrospective of the mandatory and occasionally unexpected. In fact, rather than opening with any of the troupe’s countless chart-toppers, the 66-year-old leader introduced the snarling “Rockin’ Around (With You)” as the lead off cut from 1976’s self-titled debut.
It made no difference if the song was just dusted off for this specific anniversary or in regular rotation because Tom Petty and company are locked so tightly in step with one another they could virtually communicate through osmosis.
The future was indeed wide open back in those days (as was the sky on this soggy evening), but Petty & The Heartbreakers fulfilled their southern-leaning rock n’ roll dreams time and time again. Some early set examples included the frequently played “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” plus the equally substantial but rarely performed “You Got Lucky.”
It made no difference if the song was dusted off for this specific anniversary or in regular rotation because Petty and company are locked so tightly in step with one another they could virtually communicate through osmosis. Take for instance “Into The Great Wide Open,” which was first worked into the set list a few days ago, yet settled effortlessly into the stylistic flow.
Immediately after, the players truly tore into the mystical “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” then dipped into three selections off Petty’s acclaimed solo project “Wildflowers.” “It’s Good To Be King” and “Crawling Back To You” both expanded with psychedelic flavors (accompanied by some trippy color swirls on the big screens and some pretty potent scents), though the tender, acoustic title track did get a bit overshadowed in the less attentive stadium setting.
“Learning To Fly” was actually just as soft spoken, but with everyone singing along compared the less familiar predecessor, it came across an undisputed anthem. And they kept right on coming, whether it was the retro “Yer So Bad,” the newer “I Should Have Known It” or the timeless “Refugee” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” who’s greeting “I felt so good, like anything was possible” more than lived up to its prophecy 40 years into “goin’ wherever it leads.”
Kathryn Randall contributed to this review.
For additional information on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, visit TomPetty.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at Wrigley Field include Dead & Company (Jun. 30 and Jul. 1); Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band with Huey Lewis & The News (Jul. 15); James Taylor with Bonnie Raitt (Jul. 17); Billy Joel (Aug. 11); Florida Georgia Line with Backstreet Boys, Nelly and Chris Lane (Aug. 12); Green Day (Aug. 24); Lady Gaga (Aug. 25) and Zac Brown Band (Aug. 26). For additional details, visit http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ballpark/ and LiveNation.com.