Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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Live Shots
Photo by Gary Miller

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Frank Erwin Center, May 5

Thick, chunky, middle-aged "Listen to Her Heart" rang open Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' first Austin arena appearance in nearly a decade. 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival headliners (in a downpour), the Floridians of 40 years ago configured in the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday as the antithesis of Roger Waters' Wagnerian The Wall set two nights earlier: a square, compact stage, draped from way up high by parlor curtains. From this modest power grid, the six Heartbreakers launched a two-hour cock walk of no-frills blues, classic rock, and master-craft pop. In crushed black-velvet pants and a matching shirt, red tie, and vest, the 61-year-old frontman – with his trademark shoulder-length blond hair, ubiquitous mutton chop sideburns, and Lebowski beard – held court, frequently raising both arms in maestro mode, then flapping them in a victorious avian preen. He certainly earned the privilege. At a mic purposely set half a head too low, Petty sang in undiminished piss, vinegar, and vulnerability – knees bent, haunches jutting back, with a ramrod straight back. Every word felt relived. "Listen to Her Heart" peers "Here Comes My Girl" and "Refugee" from 1979 career-maker Damn the Torpedoes, plus album deep cut "Something Big" off the succeeding Hard Promises, had bulked up with age, but the Heartbreakers motored lean and mean, from "co-captain"/lead guitarist Mike Campbell's musical-backbone-cum-sonic-hot-rod detailing and Steve Ferrone's bottomless beat, to multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston's Roy Orbison reenactment on the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care." The carefully curated set (see the full set list below) thus played universal as well as career-spanning, even if it mostly boiled down to 1989's Full Moon Fever, which eclipsed Damn the Torpedoes for a generational shift in Petty's fan base, going mano a mano with 2010's Mojo with four tracks each. Blues greats ("I'm a Man"), redneck delicacies ("Spike"), and "head bangin'" (Mojo's "I Should Have Known It" vs. "Running Down a Dream" from Full Moon Fever) demonstrated what Tom Petty also sang: "It's Good To Be King."

Frank Erwin Center set list, May 5, 2012

"Listen to Her Heart" (You're Gonna Get It!, 1978)

"You Wreck Me" (Wildflowers, 1994)

"I Won't Back Down" (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

"Here Comes My Girl" (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

"Handle With Care" (the Traveling Wilburys' Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, 1988)

"Lover's Touch" (Mojo, 2010)

"I'm a Man" (Live Anthology, 2009)

"Something Big" (Hard Promises, 1981)

"Saving Grace" (Highway Companion, 2006)

"Free Fallin'" (Full Moon Fever)

"Spike" (Southern Accents, 1985)

"It's Good To Be King" (Wildflowers)

"Something Good Coming" (Mojo)

"Learning To Fly" (Into the Great Wide Open, 1991)

"Yer So Bad" (Full Moon Fever)

"I Should Have Known It" (Mojo)

"Good Enough" (Mojo)

"Refugee" (Damn the Torpedoes)

"Running Down a Dream" (Full Moon Fever)


"Mary Jane's Last Dance" (Greatest Hits, 1993)

"American Girl" (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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