Petty Invades Fillmore

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Fillmore Auditorium - San Francisco, CA

February 1997

First Appeared in The Music Box, March 1997, Volume 4, #3

Written by John Metzger


Tom Petty kicked of 1997 with a 20-show run of sold-out performances at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. To see Petty in such an intimate venue must have been spectacular. Fortunately, the final show was broadcast across the country, carrying the magical intensity of the performance through the airwaves.

Petty was incredibly loose and comfortable in this setting, obviously enjoying himself immensely. Backed by his usual band, The Heartbreakers, Petty set the tone for the night with a raucous opening trio of Around and Around, Jammin' Me, and Running Down a Dream. Around and Around was quite a surprise opener, perhaps a nod to the Grateful Dead. It was an amazing replication of the Rolling Stones' version of this Chuck Berry-penned tune. Petty did his best Mick Jagger impression, which was really quite good.

The second Rolling Stones song of the night, Time is on My Side again fell close to the Stones version. Mike Campbell handled the guitar solo with ease, and Benmont Tench provided some subtle organ textures. Next, Petty paid tribute to fellow Southerners Lynyrd Skynyrd with a loose, rolling version of Call Me the Breeze, as Petty and company settled into a groove for the evening.

Petty eventually got around to some of his own material, but not before pulling out Slaughter on Tenth Avenue from the Ventures, a late '50s-early '60s instrumental band. This was followed by a blistering rendition of Listen to Her Heart, with a pair of Byrdsian guitar solos from Campbell.

Petty delivered a truly remarkable performance with It's Good to Be King. It was certainly one of the show's highlights, as it was on his last tour. Mike Campbell's drifting electric lead took off with an explosive burst, eventually giving way to a reverberated space reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Echoes. The band continued to build the intensity back with the added stylistic twist nodding at another Pink Floyd song, One of These Days, before concluding more than 10 minutes later.

About midway through the show, Petty pulled out his acoustic guitar for the only songs performed off his latest album (Walls and Angel Dream); a haunting rendition of Even the Losers; and a gently, audience-pleasing American Girl. The electric quickly returned for The Kinks' You Really Got Me and the second half of the nearly 2 hour, 34 song show. On top of the cover songs already mentioned, Petty reached deep into his bag of tricks throughout the evening for tunes from The Zombies, Booker T and the MGs, Bill Withers, Bo Diddley, and Van Morrison.

Petty certainly seemed to be having a lot of fun mixing his own songs with those of the performers he grew up listening to. Many performers never go back to their roots like Petty did so proudly at this show. He even dubbed The Heartbreakers the house band at the Fillmore. It certainly made for an interesting, inspired performance, and let a bit of light shine on to some of Petty's influences. He closed the show with a trilogy of Satisfaction, Louie Louie, and It's All Over Now that must have harkened back to his early shows in Southern bars. Were the Heartbreakers a Rolling Stones cover band? It sure wouldn't surprise me!

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Copyright 1997 The Music Box