20th June - Royal Albert Hall.
Reviewed by Andrew Prout
As anyone who’s been for a ride in my car can attest, I’ve been a lifelong fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. So when they announced their first major UK tour dates in 20 years I knew I had to be there. Getting tickets for one of their two London shows at the Royal Albert Hall was a mad scramble, and at first glance the seats I managed to get didn’t look too promising – the West Choir, behind the stage.
In the days leading up to the gig, I was equally excited and apprehensive – Tom Petty live! Awesome! But what if they sucked? What if the seats really were terrible?
As I made my way through the underpass at South Kensington tube, a lone busker stood with his guitar, playing my one of my favourite Tom Petty tunes ever, Into the Great Wide Open. This is a good sign, I thought.
The seats in the West Choir, as it turned out, were great. The sound was crystal clear, the band turned round to acknowledge us many times during the show, and we were given a behind-the-scenes peek you don’t usually get at most gigs – seeing the techs tune up the various guitars before they’re handed to Tom, the family & friends standing to the side of the stage, the man who sits behind drummer Steve Ferrone holding towels to mop his brow (!). Plus the odd little secret most attendees wouldn’t know – Tom has karaoke-style monitors by the foot of his mic!
The largely middle-aged crowd were quite sedate for a great deal of the gig, clapping and singing along, but mostly staying seated for the first two thirds of the 2+ hour show (perhaps that’s just what you do at the Royal Albert Hall?). By the end though, everybody was on their feet.
Kicking of with Listen to Her Heart, the band then brought it up a notch with the rocking You Wreck Me & I Won’t Back Down. A few more numbers followed, including the Travelling Wilburys number Handle With Care and an electrifying cover of Fleetwood Mac Oh Well, and then after a bit of banter about being influenced by British music, a surprise guest was invited on stage – Steve Winwood!
Winwood stayed for just two songs – Blind Faith's Can’t Find My Way Home & The Spencer Davis Group's Gimme Some Lovin’, both of which went down brilliantly with the crowd. After this, Tom asked "How about a love song?" and we were greeted with the opening chords to Free Fallin’. Hearing the entire Albert Hall singing along to that tune was probably the highlight of the night. Absolutely magical.
Other highlights of the night would include a semi-acoustic rendition /sing-a-long of Learning to Fly, the crowd going crazy at the playing of Refugee & Runnin’ Down a Dream, and everybody in the building on their feet for the final song of the encore, the classic American Girl. Oh, and the very attractive brunette in the front row.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have been going for over 35 years now, and even if some of them may be starting to look their age, they still rock like no other band out there today. Ably supported by a 40 minute set of the late 60s/early 70s-rock stylings of Jonathan Wilson, it was an absolutely superb night. After playing a meagre number of dates this time round, I hope they come back for a full UK tour soon. I can’t wait to see them again.
- 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
- Can't Find My Way Home (with Steve Winwood)
- Gimme Some Lovin' (with Steve Winwood)
- Free Fallin'
- It's Good To Be King
- Something Good Coming
- Learning to Fly
- Yer So Bad
- I Should Have Known It
- Runnin' Down a Dream
- Mary Jane's Last Dance
- American Girl