I have to preface this with a fairly unprofessional note. I've had the pleasure of photographing many groups that I truly admire and even bands that have sold millions of records, but I've never really had the opportunity to shoot a true "rock star" - until now. I had the distict honor of capturing a grand rock concert when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rolled through the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA on August 21st as part of the Mojo Tour. I had grown up listening to Petty's music, thanks to my mother, but have only recently grown to really appreciate his music. I am now a full-fledged fan and couldn't wait to see him live.
The crowd for this event was an interesting one. It ranged from young kids with their parents to old hippies and bikers, with everyone in between. This is a testament to how timeless rock and roll really is. Petty's appeal seamlessly spans generations, and thankfully, he doesn't seem to be backing down any time soon.
My Morning Jacket kicked off the show. They jammed on one song after another without missing a beat. I was a bit surprised that their set lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. They played the songs you'd expect: "Off the Record", "I'm Amazed", and set closer "One Big Holiday", among others. Although they were the youngest of the openers (support on other dates included Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, and ZZ Top), they proved that they could hang with the best of 'em.
When Tom Petty and his band of Heartbreakers hit the stage with "Listen to Her Heart", the crowd erupted. With as many hits as he has, it's difficult to include all of the favorites a setlist. Petty managed to fit in the majority of the staples, including "Free Fallin'", "I Won't Back Down", "Breakdown", "Refugee", and "Runnin' Down a Dream". I was also surprised that they worked in three covers: Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well", Chuck Berry's "Carol", and Them's "Mystic Eyes", all of which sounded nice sung through Petty's signature croon.
About halfway through their two hour set, the band performed four songs from their new album, Mojo. Much of the audience seemed to use this time as an intermission, but they missed out on some good tunes. The new album has some great bluesy material, further displaying the skill of underrated guitarist Mike Campbell. However, everyone was re-energized by the time they went back to the classics. The whole band was spot-on all night, but I was particularly impressed by how good Petty's vocals sounded.
Epitomizing the timelessness of Petty's music, the band concluded their encore with a rousing rendition of "American Girl". Despite being released over thirty years ago and the band members' ages being nearly double that, the song had everyone in the venue singing along. As stars and stripes illuminated the stage, it was clear that Petty never lost his mojo.