Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, one of America’s great live bands, made a return to the Royal Albert Hall stage to perform in their first UK headline shows in 13 years. The Hall was a fitting venue for the band, as their last UK performance came here on 29 November 2002 as part of the George Harrison tribute, Concert for George. Tickets outside we being touted for twice the face value and the venue was a sellout for both nights. We were actually seated in the 'choir stalls' which were behind the stage! If it were a cricket pitch we would be at 'leg slip'. Support act for the night was American singer/songwriter Jonathan Wilson. Very much from the same mould as Tom Petty delivered a solid if unspectacular set to an increasing audience.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers don't go in for big stage sets and light shows , they don't need to with their back catalogue. In fact the stage was littered with Amps that probably dated back to the late 70's .
61 year old Petty demonstrated exactly why he remains one of the top live draws in the States with a dynamic set of material delivered with a passion and zest more associated with artists a fraction of his age. The songs performed encompassed his whole career, including his spell as one of the Travelling Wilburys, his take on a Fleetwood Mac classic, and a guest appearance from one of the English artists to originally influence him.
Petty, originally from Gainesville, Florida spoke with a genuine warmth and southern charm when he acknowledged his absence from these shores with an ironic “Long time no see, it’s been a while!” Introducing “The Heartbreakers” he described how he had to “fist-fight” Jackson Browne to steal Browne’s then guitarist Scott Thurston and explained how he was the Heartbreaker’s “new boy” given he’d only joined them as recently as 1989. He told how bassist Ron Blair, now returned to the Heartbreakers fold had been his double dating buddy back in his high school days; how Brighton born drummer Steve Ferrone was the band’s English connection whose credentials included a spell with the Average White Band and recounted how he’d known keyboardist Benmont Tench since he’d been about 12 years old. Petty finally introduced Mike Campbell, the dreadlocked and youthful looking guitarist, as his the Heartbreakers, “co-captain”. The impressive set opened up with: Listen To Her Heart/You Wreck Me/I Won’t Back Down/Here Comes My Girl/Handle With Care/Good Enough/Oh Well/Something Big/Don’t Come Around Here No More. Petty thanked the audience saying how important England had been to him, and how many English musicians had influenced him as a youngster. One of the artists to have done so was then introduced, and entering stage left was non other than a spritely looking Steve Winwood who strapped on a guitar and stepped up to he mic to perform Blind Faith’s ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’. Winwood then joined Benmont Tench at his keyboards to perform the Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ to complete a two song cameo that oozed with class. The set closed with a double whammy of ‘Refugee’ and ‘Running Down A Dream’ which elicited one of the loudest audience responses you will ever hear. A raucous encore pairing of ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and ‘American Girl’ then rounded off the evening in superb fashion. It had been an epic performance from a prodigiously talented group of musicians led by an iconic singer and songwriter
Thanks to Fiona Deighton from Hemel Hempstead we have some photos from the front of the stage.
Full Set List
- Listen to her heart
- You wreck me
- I won't back down
- Her comes my girl
- Handle with care (Travelling Wilburys cover)
- Good enough
- Oh well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
- Don't come around here no more
- Can't find my way home (Blind Faith cover with Steve Winwood)
- Gimme some lovin' (Traffic cover with Steve Winwood)
- Free fallin'
- It's good to be king
- Learning to fly
- Yer so bad
- I should have known it
- Runnin' down a dream
- Mary Jane's last dance
- American girl