Sporting a duster and playing Rickenbacker guitars most of the night, he didn’t look much different than when he released his first album in 1976.
Petty’s show Tuesday night was long on hits and material from his latest CD, “Mojo.” Fans reveled in track after track of golden material. In fact, does Petty ever write a bad song? Some may be better than others, but it’s rare to hear a true clunker come out of his oeuvre.
Petty and the Heartbreakers showed a little rust on the opening “King’s Highway.” The mix, in particular, seemed muddy, but cleared up by the fourth song, a gorgeous “Free Fallin'” that Petty dedicated “to all the lovebirds, and to any guy who has cheated on his girlfriend.”
Tuesday’s show had an interesting pace to it. Petty seemed to break it into blocks. After the opener, he did a series of songs from his “solo” albums, including a great “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” with a long, moody jam. Many people in the audience seemed to take the lyrics, “Let’s roll another joint” literally, as I felt like I might get a contact high.
The next block showcased some classics, including “Breakdown,” which Petty and cohorts have always jammed on. This version had Petty sing-speaking a lengthy, moody ending over a solo by lead guitarist Mike Campbell. A raring “Drivin’ Down to Georgia” featured some great piano work from Benmont Tench and a lyrical solo by Petty on a Fender Telecaster.
The third block consisted of songs from “Mojo,” and the new songs are quite a departure from some of Petty’s earlier work. “First Flash of Freedom” sounds like “At Fillmore East”-era Allman Brothers, particularly with guitarists Campbell and Scott Thurston playing stereo guitar solos, the former on a Gibson Les Paul and the latter on a Gibson SG. It was actually sort of freaky how much it sounded like something that Duane Allman and Dickey Betts would come up with. The Allman Brothers love continued on “Good Enough,” while Campbell channeled his inner Jimmy Page on “I Should Have Known It.”
The final block returned to the familiar hits, including an acoustic “Learning to Fly” and trippy, searing versions of “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Refugee.” The multi-song encore included a fiery “You Wreck Me.”
Joe Cocker opened the show with a long, hit-filled set. It’s sometimes easy to forget how much Cocker has contributed to rock over the years, but hearing “Feelin’ Alright,” “The Letter,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” and the always welcome “With a Little Help from My Friends,” was a good reminder. Cocker’s voice still has its trademark emotive growl, but the volume levels left a lot to be desired. In 27 years of attending concerts, it might be the first time I wished the performer had been turned up so we could feel the impact of the music.
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Mark Osler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.