Live Super Bowl Blog – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 Tom Petty at Super Bowl – Here’s my riff on the Super Bowl halftime

Remember when the Super Bowl selection of Tom Petty was getting a bad rap early on  – a couple months ago.  Apathy or even some distaste.  (“Tom Petty?  Wha?”)  I think ‘who else are they going to get?’.  Look at the recent history: Paul McCartney, U2, Rolling Stones, Prince.  That’s the biggest of the big in classic rock.  The only one left is Springsteen, and he must have said no, because he is in the midst of his “Magic” tour. 

Tom Petty is one of the great singer-songwriters in rock music.  Ever.  Quit arguing.

Underappreciated, in an odd way. 
Tons of hits, and an enviable May -December fan base.  He has garnered a next-generation of fans as well as anyone in rock and roll.  “Free Fallin’ went a long way towards helping him pick up a second wave of fans.  Even though it was 18 years ago, it gives him a set of fans who are in their 30’s as well as a big 40 and 50-year old groups.
But still underappreciated.  He ain’t got the movie star looks for sure; more like the Florida redneck rocker he really is.  I love his integrity, his tunes, and his band.  I am looking forward to this.
I saw something on YouTube recorded from a cell phone during Friday’s Petty rehearsal.  I think “I Won’t Back Down” and “American Girl” will be in the set.  He gets about 18 minutes.  Tom said they are approaching it like a 1960’s tour, where five bands used to get about 15-20 minutes to make an impression before getting back on the tour bus and heading to a town like Erie, PA. 
Opens with “American Girl”  A song from his first record, and still one of my favorites.  Great story about Roger McGuinn, the leader of the Byrds, who heard the song from his manager  and asked “when did we record this?”  and  had to be told it wasn’t the Byrds but Petty, someone new at the time. 

Cool imagery of the giant arrow going into the heart on the field.  I like it that Petty still uses his older artwork as his branding…the band sounds really good,  though Tom a little nervous to be playing in front of 190 gazillion people, with just four songs to be great. 

FACT: The band opened with this song at Live Aid in 1985, another mega-millions audience.

“I Won’t Back Down” is second.  A nice version  yet not my fave and a little pedestrian, but also one of their more well-known songs.  I think it allowed everyone to settle in – band and crowd…

FACT: Read on a blog that the whole show/stage got set up in 7 minutes.
“Free Fallin'”  is third.  Probably his anthem…love it  when he plays the Fender Telecaster guitar. This song is his “Purple Rain” …Like John Fogerty, Petty’s voice is as good now as ever, and sounds more nuanced and he hasn’t lost much…..I love it too that this performance isn’t fake vocals, hidden keyboards, and prerecorded tracks.  It is a great band, playing live, and a pretty good sound mix too.  We can hear all the instruments, and the drums are loud enough to push, but don’t overpower.
“Running Down A Dream” comes fourth….and at this point I would rather watch a concert than the game for a while, but this has to be their last song.  Band is loose now, and smiling.    Mike Campbell, the Heartbreakers longtime guitarist, is incredible.  Responsible for much of the trademark Petty sound and is the secret weapon that many forget about.  He is on fire with his guitar work.
And it is over. A big jammin’ finish and stage bow.
I would say it was just what you would hope from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It sounded freakin’ terrific, they looked like old guys who can still rock.   The songs were quinessential Petty – rock radio faves for the crowd.  Will be interesting to see the reviews.  They will all be some variation of this:  Sounded great.  They looked old.  It rocked anyway.  Wished they played something else.  Crap like that.
Yes, “the Waiting” or “Refugee” or “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” would have been good.  But so would have “Breakdown” or “Even The Losers” or Insider” or “Name Any Song In His Catalog”. 
He’s Tom Petty.  It’s 30 years down the road from his first album.  I’m not to worried about saying he did Petty fans proud, and if some say it wasn’t that great, They are wrong. He delivered.  Again. 
FACT: I went to YouTube after writing this, and there were hundreds of people who had looked up the songs Petty had played and left comments on those pages. That’s the power of the Super Bowl translating into activity for your brand – in this case the Petty/Heartbreakers brand.  Remember too, someone doesn’t get this far without some marketing sense. Petty just announced his summer tour.  The band comes to Indianapolis July 3 at Deer Creek/Verizon Wireless Music Center.  Tickets are on sale…

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