Review + Photos + Setlist: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Drive-By Truckers Steam Up St. Louis' Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, July 18, 2010
A Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers summer tour is as American as baseball, apple pie and fireworks. Last night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, the band once again proved why, by turning in a predictably solid set full of familiar hits and musicianship.
Todd Owyoung Tom Petty, last night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. View more photos here.
"We've got a hot and steamy night for a rock and roll show," Petty noted in his inimitable drawl, which has settled into something between "pothead uncle" and "coherent Dylan." He wasn't kidding; the stifling humidity hung over the crowd and venue like a wet blanket. The band kept the crowd alert with early sing-alongs: the rapscallion-funk party ode "You Don't Know How It Feels" and a lofty "Free Fallin,'" described by Petty as a "love song for all the lovers - especially if you're here with someone you shouldn't be with."
The show wasn't without its hiccups, though. About ninety minutes into the set, after "Don't Come Around Here No More," Petty thanked the crowd for coming and seemed to be setting up the final song of the main set. Suddenly, he looked around, said a hasty good-bye and abruptly went offstage. The crowd buzzed in confusion. At the side of the stage, however, you could see long-time guitarist Mike Campbell being propped up and helped off stage by several people.
Petty returned a few minutes later and told the crowd that Campbell had become sick and was with the doctor. He reassured that if all was well, the band would "come back and play a lot longer," so they should stick around. True to his word, after a short break he and the Heartbreakers did return -- for three more songs, starting with the classic "Refugee." [Update, 11:55 a.m.: Just spoke with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' publicist, and he said that it appeared that Campbell was suffering from dehydration.)
Campbell certainly was working hard enough last night. Called the Heartbreakers' "co-captain" during band announcements, he was especially energized last night. During a cover of Fleeetwood Mac's "Oh Well," as caveman drums galloped from the back of the stage, he unleashed a wicked, searing guitar solo. He directed the Heartbreakers to a stop after a raucous, encore-worthy version of "Mary Jane's Last Dance." And a drawn-out "Breakdown" was more ominous than usual, mainly thanks to Campbell's evil-tinted, meandering solo melody; the song felt like it was going to steal your whiskey and your girlfriend.
Todd Owyoung Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. View more photos here.
The band also seemed to move to the back of the stage out of deference as Campbell soloed during a steamy new blues number, "Good Enough." Petty and the Heartbreakers are touring behind their first album in eight years, the bluesy, jammy Mojo, and the band chose to clump these new songs together in the middle of the main set. Having to sit through five largely unfamiliar, non-pop songs in a row asked a lot of the audience, though - especially since these songs appeared after a string of hits. People grew more and more restless as the mini-set progressed, and the momentum created at first dissipated into the humid air.
And the new tunes were hit or miss: "Takin' My Time" was boring and disconnected, although the brisker, Texas roadhouse burner "I Should Have Known It" grooved.