BY TIM HINELY
It’s always good to see Mr. Petty and his long running gang of musician friends (we calls ‘em the Heartbreakers) come back to town. The last time they were here was about two and a half years ago when they did a two night run in the Denver area at the First Bank Center in Broomfield, CO (which I reviewed for BLURT). Re: tonight’s gig, on a personal note, this was my first time to Red Rocks for a concert (had been out there to hike before) and it certainly helped having 9th row tickets. The night was a bit cool (50’s) and a little windy but no rain in the forecast (it had poured the night before apparently) so off we went.
The band hit the stage at 9:00 PM sharp and Petty seemed in exceptionally good spirits (maybe something in the, uh, Colorado air?) and if I may introduce the band? Benmont Tench still on keys, Mike Campbell on guitar (and though he is Petty’s age, looks much younger), original bassist Ron Blair on the bass, (all three with Petty since 1976 though Blair dropped out and then dropped back in after Howie Epstein’s death in 2003) as well as drummer Steve Ferrone and (very sharp dressed) 3rd guitarist Scott Thurston (Ferrone and Thurston are the “new” guys though both have been around at least 20 years).
These days the band basically cherry picks the best stuff from their catalog (40 plus years worth) and they sounded terrific, though Petty was really the only one who moves about the stage, dancing, arms in the air/conducting, interacting with the fawning crowd, etc (Ok, Campbell does it bit as well).
They opened with The Byrds cover “So You Wanna be a Rock n’ Roll star” (I wonder how many of these folks think Petty wrote that song?) and then on to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Into the Great Wide Open”, “Free Fallin’” (I like the older, slightly faster version more) etc., but it wasn’t all old classics. They played a few choice cuts off his latest, Hypnotic Eye including the political “American Dream Plan B,” “Forgotten Man” and “U Get me High” (which elicited a roar from the Colorado crowd) and later we heard “Shadow People.” (the final cut on Hypnotic Eye).
The second half of the set consisted of more gems including “Rebels,” “Yer So Bad,” “Learning To Fly” “Refugee” and ended the set with “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” The crowd stomped their feet and demanded more so we got two killer encores, “You Wreck Me” and “American Girl.”
My pal and I (and thousands of others) made the trek back down the big hill to the last parking lot (no cabs in sight). My dogs were barking and I had no voice left but traffic wasn’t bad at all (they seem to have this parking situation thing down at Red Rocks) and the lights of Denver shone in the distance.
Photo Credit: Scott Dudelson (from the Lockn Festival