LIVE: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers @ SPAC, 6/23/13

Review by Greg Haymes

Bob Dylan and Tom Petty shared the Saratoga Performing Arts Center stage back in 1986 when Petty and his band the Heartbreakers opened the show and later served as Dylan’s backing band. Returning the favor on Sunday night, Petty & the Heartbreakers rolled into SPAC with Dylan. Not Bob this time, but rather his son, Jakob Dylan, who led the reunited Wallflowers through the opening set. And in another kind of full-circle musical experience, the Wallflowers opened their 45-minute with “Don’t Do It,” a classic by the Band, who at one time served as Bob Dylan’s band.

Maybe these kinds of things only happen under a full moon…

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The Wallflowers glided through 10 songs during their 45-minute set, with old favorites “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache” (featuring some fine slide guitar work by Stuart Mathis) emerging as the strongest performances. They played only one song (“Misfits and Lovers”) from their new comeback album, “Glad All Over,” but they also slid into a tasty treatment of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” featuring both boogie-woogie piano and Memphis soul organ from Jimmy Wallace.

Petty and his band are, of course, consumate pros, and they’ve been making fairly regular tour stops at SPAC since 1980, so they seemed right at home, Petty ambling about the stage with the air of rock royalty as they launched the show with guitarist extraordinaire Mike Campbell’s interstellar jangle on the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Star.” The crowd was there to hear the hits, and the band cranked up most of their best known songs – from the half-spoken “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” to the unprompted audience sing-along of “Free Fallin’,” from the dark, psychedelic buzz of “Don’t Come Around Here No More” to the pure power-pop of the final encore, “American Girl.”

But what really made the concert fun were the lesser-known selections. “We’re actually a mid-’60s garage band. We came right out of the garage,” Petty explained as the band kicked into a raucous rendition of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” owing more to Paul Revere & the Raiders’ version than the popular Monkees hit. And “I Should Have Known It” was a thumping, “Nuggets”-worthy primal stomp, too. Petty plucked “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” from the Traveling Wilburys catalog, revived the seldom played “Rebels” with an acoustic guitar and dug deep into the Heartbreakers rarities songbag for “Melinda,” the evening’s spotlight number for keyboardist Benmont Tench, whose barrelhouse honky tonk workout evolved into a stately, elegant piano solo.

Throughout the night, Petty seemed to be genuinely having fun onstage. Almost as much as the cheering fans who packed the amphitheater and the lawn…

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS SET LIST
So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (the Byrds)
Love Is a Long Road
I Won’t Back Down
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (Paul Revere & the Raiders)
Here Comes My Girl
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Free Fallin’ A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)
Listen to Her Heart
Tweeter & the Monkey Man (Traveling Wilburys)
Rebels
Melinda
Learning to Fly
Yer So Bad
I Should Have Known It
Refugee
Runnin’ Down a Dream
ENCORES
Don’t Come Around Here No More
You Wreck Me
American Girl

THE WALLFLOWERS SET LIST
Don’t Do It (the Band)
Three Marlenas
The Letter (the Box Tops)
I’ve Been Delivered
6th Avenue Heartache
Closer to You
Sleepwalker
One Headlight
Misfits and Lovers
The Difference

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