Boston’s largest rock & roll show of the summer took place on Saturday night as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers took the stage at Fenway Park in front of 40,000+ people. It was Petty’s first show in the city of Boston itself in 6 years. Petty joins artists like Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Aerosmith all who have graced the concert stage at the famed baseball stadium.
Unlike many artists of his era, Petty is not touring on nostalgia alone. His new album ‘Hypnotic Eye’ got plenty of attention during his set with the rocking tunes “American Dream Plan B” and ‘Forgetten Man’ amongst others. Petty can still write a new song among the best of them, and play the old ones just as well. Classics like ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ ‘Free Fallin,’ and the bluesy rocker ‘Refugee’ were met with strong receptions from the crowd. With a discography like Petty’s the entire set could easily be drawn from hit singles. But Petty also made room for rarities like ‘Angel Dream No. 2’ and ‘Rebels.’
Perhaps the best reception of all came at the end of the night when Petty closed the show and finished his encore by playing ‘American Girl.’ The oft-covered song had everyone right down to the security guards and ushers dancing in the aisles and singing along as the night wrapped up with a fireworks blast illuminating the sky above Fenway Park.
During the show Petty also gave his band, the Heartbreakers, a fitting extended introduction telling the crowd “this is the closest thing I have to family” showing more appreciation for his band than most artists of his stature. Most of his band has been with him since the start in 1976 and in fact the most recent line-up change took place in 1995.
Simply put, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers are no nostalgia act. This is no tour with a band reliving a past glory and cashing in on a legacy. Petty & the Heartbreakers can still play, and play well. In a nearly two hour set of new songs, deep cuts, and classics Petty made it evident that he is still relevant today and still has the ability to put on a show well worth the price of admission.
Opening the show was legendary Traffic frontman Steve Winwood, who has been invited on some large tours over the last couple years. Winwood has been a part of several ultra successful musical projects in his illustrious career and therefore had a lot to pull from during his set, making for the perfect introduction to the night.