For the last decade, Fenway Park - home of the Boston Red Sox - has hosted concerts from some of the biggest names in music. Artists such as Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and The Police have performed inside the iconic stadium. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers joined that esteemed list when they took the stage on August 30, 2014.
Petty told the audience that they were going to try to hit every album with an "industrial-length rock show." The band's two-hour set came pretty close to reaching that goal, ranging from 1976's self-titled debut to their brand-new effort, Hypnotic Eye. The new material melded seamlessly with the many fan favorites from their back catalog.
Petty graciously introduced his bandmates - guitarist Mike Campbell, bassist Ron Blair, keyboardist Benmont Trench, guitarist/synth player Scott Thurston and drummer Steve Ferrone - as "the closed thing I've got to family." It's an undeniably impressive collection of talented musicians, and the fact that they've stayed together for so long is even more remarkable. (Petty joking referred to Ferrone is the "new guy" as he celebrates his 20th year with the group.)
In addition to the expected hits and new tracks, Petty rewarded diehard fans with a couple of curveballs in the song selection. Right out of the gate, the band opened with a cover of The Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star." Mid-set, Petty strapped on his acoustic guitar for several songs, including a track he called one of his favorites: "Angel Dream (No. 2)" from their She's the One soundtrack.
The band left the stage for several moments following a rousing rendition of "Runnin' Down a Dream," but the crowd's applause never died down. The Heartbreakers triumphantly returned for an encore consisting of "Don't Come Around Here No More," "You Wreck Me" and "American Girl." Before the closer, Petty reminisced about Boston being the first city to give their debut single radio attention back in 1976. The show ended with a bang as red, white and blue fireworks burst over the stage.
Steve Winwood opened the show with an hour-long set that drew from all of his past projects - The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and Go - along with his solo career, plus a cover of Buddy Miles' "Them Changes." Winwood is quite a talent himself, alternating between guitar, piano and organ, all while singing. He has surrounded himself with equally-talented bandmates. Guitarist Jose Neto's unique style particularly stood out, as he utilized a lot of finger picking. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth also drew attention when played both the saxophone and the clarinet at once.
Watching Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at such a historic venue was a magical experience. Much like going to see a Red Sox game, the crowd at Fenway Park spanned multiple generations - which says a lot about Petty's longevity. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have aged like a fine wine.
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.