Tom Petty is a storyteller. After his Newfoundland weekend — two nights at St. John’s Mile One Centre — he probably has a few more tales to tell.
Some struggled to justify the price of admission when the Heartbreakers show was announced, with tickets between $80 and $170, but you can’t argue with success, and these shows, two of only three Canadian dates on Petty’s current tour, packed them in to the rafters. None appeared to be regretting the expense.
Promoter Dave Carver told the crowd Saturday night they were in for a treat with the opening act, and he did not lie. Although not to everyone’s taste, gospel kings the Blind Boys of Alabama brought the salvation, with a tight band and heavenly harmonies.
How does the Marc Cohn song go?
“‘Tell me are you a Christian child?’
And I said ‘Ma’am I am tonight’”
Yeah, it was a bit like that.
An uplifting beginning with a rousing end, and the lights came up for the crew to clear the stage. As they went down, the crowd went to its feet.
Petty opened with “Listen to Your Heart,” he and “co-captain” Mike Campbell leaning on the trademark Rickenbackers to pull out the signature jangle.
Petty squinting; lights too bright? They launched into “You Wreck Me,” and by “I Won’t Back Down,” the voices of the gathered thousands filled the stadium, singing along. Uninvited, but Petty did not seem to mind.
In fact, if anything, he looked to be charmed by the rousing welcome, tickled by the singing, the enthusiasm, the deafening appreciation he was given from fans new and old. The age range was not lost on Petty. “Here’s one we wrote in 1981,” he said, answering the resultant cheer with, “Yeah, that was a good year for me, too.”
To one youngster up front, he added with a laugh, “You weren’t even here then.”
By then they were into it, Petty carving a weaving dance around the stage, waving and laughing. Campbell swapping a guitar per song or two; just the right sound from lightening breaks, bent strings, crying slide. Bringing the crowd up then settling them back.
The band saved the heaviest tunes for the end, pounding out a heavy jam in “Good Enough,” which lead into “Refugee,” ending the set with “Running Down a Dream.”
The Heartbreakers lingered on stage after that, soaking in a reaction the old band may not have heard in some time. And they milked it, running a full five minutes of stomping, hooting ovation before climbing back in the saddle for a two-song capper.
Between them, Petty leaned into the mike and said, “I got a feeling this is not our last trip to St. John’s.”
After this weekend, he’s not the only one thinking that way.
Blind Boys of Alabama
“People Get Ready”
“Spirit In The Sky”
“Down In The Hole”
“There Will Be A Light”
“Free At Last”
“Amazing Grace” (to the tune of “House Of The Rising Sun”
“Look Where He Brought Me From”
and the Heartbreakers
“Listen To Her Heart”
“You Wreck Me”
“I Won’t Back Down”
“Here Comes My Girl”
“Handle With Care”
“I’m A Man”
“Something Good Coming”
“Learning To Fly”
“Yer So Bad”
“I Shoulda Known It”
“Runnin’ Down A Dream”
This article has been corrected