Star Telegram - Aug 6, 2006
Review of the August 4th Tom Petty concert at the Smirnoff in Dallas
Petty, band and surprise guest thrill to the end
By MALCOLM MAYHEW
DALLAS - To say Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers went out with the obligatory bang Friday night at Smirnoff Music Centre would be low-balling it; this was more like cannon fire.
The 55-year-old heartland rocker's current tour is meant to celebrate his 30th anniversary with the band and the arrival of a new solo CD, Highway Companion.
But this tour also marks a potential wave goodbye; it is, supposedly, his final tour. While Petty hasn't ruled out performing live again, he has said it won't be on his usual road-warrior scale.
Knowing that, initially, gave the show a sense of melancholy. But Petty was hardly misty-eyed. The show, rather, had a celebratory vibe to it, with Petty all smiles and far more animated than at past area performances.
Opening with the one-two punch of Listen to Her Heart and You Don't Know How It Feels, Petty and the gang played with fierce, but notoriously loose, precision as they steamrolled through hit after hit, from I Won't Back Down to Free Fallin' to You Wreck Me to the Traveling Wilburys' Handle With Care. A very nice surprise were back-to-back fiery covers of Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well and the Yardbirds' I'm a Man.
Then Stevie Nicks came out. Dressed in her usual witch-black attire (gothic dress, flowing cape), she joined Petty for a handful of songs, including a powerful rendition of their duet, Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, and a brittle acoustic ballad, The Insider.
Nicks' unannounced appearance drew deafening roars from the nearly sold-out audience, but Petty and his band were hardly upstaged. Guitarist Mike Campbell effortlessly peeled off one amazing solo after another, and sideman Scott Thurston chimed in with tornadoes of harmonica blasts that transcended his modest demeanor.
As always, there was a certain amount of laid-back, easygoing energy to their performance, but this is a group that pays attention to the nuances that often make songs tick. Benmont Tench's understated piano work gave many of the songs their emotional backbones, while drummer Steve Ferrone alternated between wildly bashing and gently swishing, steering the show's moods.
If this was really and truly the last time we'll see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, they have accomplished the traditionally sought going out on top.