Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers bring their 40th anniversary tour to Chicago’s Wrigley Field for what could easily be the show of the summer.
The last time Chris Stapleton was in town was as headliner of his own show at Northerly Island last summer. However, having the honor to open for a heavyweight act such as the Heartbreakers certainly introduced him to a wider audience. Much of that audience did have to watch from the edges of the field, however, after a downpour hit the friendly confines and people ran for shelter. It was a great performance by Stapleton following his recent layoff due to a damaged finger and the audience was suitably warmed up for the main event.
Unfortunately, the rain was way more than a passing shower, but it takes more than a bit of rain to put a dampener on a night like this and Wrigley Field welcomes Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with open arms and wet clothes. Starting at the very beginning, the band launches into the first song from their first album “Rockin’ Around (With You)”.
From the moment the band take to the stage, it’s clear that the chemistry between Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is still strong. Indeed, the musical understanding between band members verges on telepathic. Every member knows their place and exactly what sonic space they are there to occupy. Whether playing in the background or taking the spotlight, each member performs tastefully and everyone performs with one thing in mind – the song. It’s amazing to watch Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench go back and forth effortlessly trading licks like kids trading baseball cards. This kind of deep musical understanding only comes with time, and the fact that Petty teases Steve Ferrone for being the “new guy” despite having been with the band for 23 years tells you everything you need to know.
As expected, the show is packed back-to-back with hit after hit. Indeed, with a back catalog such as theirs, it’s impossible for this not to be the case. Whilst there were certainly a lot of lifelong Petty / Heartbreakers fans out in force this is a band that, due to the appeal of its classic songs, surpasses age barriers, with multiple generations represented in the audience. Indeed, everybody knows more Petty / Heartbreakers songs than they realize. Even deeper cuts from Petty’s Wildflowers album have large portions of the audience singing along.
It is hard to pick particular songs for praise from such a strong setlist. However, the acoustic version of “Learning to Fly” is a real standout and a great take on the classic song, with the Webb sisters’ atmospheric backup vocals adding real depth to the track (as they do throughout the rest of the show). Fifty thousand people singing the stripped back hit in unison is more than enough for everyone in Wrigley to think “what rain?”
The set is rounded out with true crowd pleasers “You Wreck Me” and “American Girl” shortly before fireworks mark the end of an amazing show. This is definitely one of those shows you know everyone will be talking about around the water cooler and coffee machine for weeks to come.
Here’s hoping this tour isn’t the last time we’ll get to see TPHB – the reception they received from the audience at Wrigley Field shows that the fans are definitely not ready for that yet.
Event Date: 29-JUN-2017