Tom Petty greeted the crowd Sunday night at Royal Farms Arena by asking, “Have you got your mojo working?” The tip of the hat to Muddy Waters was a valid question, as he and The Heartbreakers were about to launch into marathon two-hour show for their 40th anniversary stop in Baltimore.
The band kicked off the show with the first song from the band’s self-titled 1976 debut album, “Rockin’ Around (With You).” The band would close the show with the last song from that album, “American Girl.”
The show was chock full of hits, both from Petty’s solo records and the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers catalogue. “Last Dance with Mary Jane” and “You Don’t Know How it Feels” reeled the crowd in early in the set. “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin’” provided some seriously boisterous singalongs.
The band also took time to play some less-heard and rarely heard deep cuts, including a number of songs from Petty’s “Wildflowers” album.
While the set list was stellar and sure to satisfy the casual and hardcore fans alike, the show also gave each member their time to shine. Petty took his time with band introductions later in the show, telling sentimental stories and cracking jokes, but making it abundantly clear that 40 years into the band, he’s still surrounded by his favorite musicians. He spoke about begging the Webb sisters, Maddie and Charley, to come on tour as his backup singers. He joked that drummer Steve Ferrone — “truly the greatest drummer I ever heard,” he said — is the new guy since he’s only been in the band 24 years.
Petty told the story of how he met Mike Campbell, the band’s lead guitar player: he went to the local music store to look for ads for guitar players on the bulletin board and saw one, with no phone number just an address. He went “way into the woods” and shows up at a “shaky house.” Campbell took out what Petty described as a $10 Japanese guitar. He was skeptical, but after hearing Campbell rip into “Johnny B. Goode,” he said “buddy, you’re going to be in my band forever.” And the rest is history.
Petty has said recently that this might be the band’s last big tour. They played like they could go for another 40 years. But if it is, indeed, the last big romp for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, they’re going out with bang.
About THE BEAT: Marc Shapiro, a lifelong musician and concert-goer, writes about regional and national musicians, concerts, festivals and the music industry. He is managing editor at the Baltimore Jewish Times, a sister publication of Baltimore Style. More of his photos can be viewed on his Facebook page, and he can be reached at [email protected].