TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – Live at The Fillmore, 1997

“Oh, baby doll,” exclaims Tom Petty in his endearing Southern drawl at the start of this 2-CD set drawn from six of the 20 nights he and his Heartbreakers played at San Francisco’s Fillmore West between January 10 and February 7, 1997. Then they’re off and into ‘Jammin’ Me’, the song he wrote with Bob Dylan and ace guitarist Mike Campbell, followed by ‘Listen To Her Heart’, two of the 14 originals offered up here alongside a host of well-chosen covers.

    The six Fillmore shows can be found on two packages released last month, a 4-CD deluxe package with bells and whistles and a more user-friendly double CD set that I’ve been playing for the past couple of weeks. It offers a generous two hours plus of music and proves beyond any doubt that Tom’s Heartbreakers vie with Bruce’s E Street men for gold in the US bar-band Olympics. 

    Indeed. Live At The Fillmore 1997 establishes a copper-bottomed claim that Tom and his men are the best tribute band in the world. Between stage patter – “This is going out on the internet… whatever that is” – we get Chuck (‘Around And Around’ and ‘Bye Bye Johnny’), Kinks (‘You Really Got Me’), Stones (‘Time Is On My Side’, ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’), Byrds (‘It Can’t Be Wrong’, ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ and ‘Eight Miles High’, with Roger McGuinn), Led Zep (‘Black Dog’, disguised as ‘Ugly Homecoming Queen’), Them (‘Gloria’) with a touch of Dylan (‘Knocking On Heavens’ Door) and even a sprinkling of Who (‘Shakin’ All Over’, as a Pirates/Who fusion). 

    Almost all of these are performed true to the originals. Mike Campbell pays homage to the group’s heroes by lovingly replicating guitar solos as you expect to hear them, deftly recreating Dave Davies’ ‘ripped speaker’ solo on ‘You Really Got Me’ and getting the fuzz tone dead right on ‘Satisfaction’. Tom pronounces the heavenly door as ‘dooer’, and for my money has always sounded a bit like Roger McGuinn, while the group can sound uncannily like The Byrds when they want to anyway.

    The fun they had is reflected in ‘Heartbreakers Beach Party’, which Tom claims they never played before, and the grungy ‘Louie Louie’ which morphs into ‘Gloria’ but for all the fun and games the highlight of CD1, and for my money the entire set, is the golden triptych of Angel DreamThe Wild One, Forever and a delicious acoustic take of ‘American Girl’, all three drenched in emotion, tenderness and the same brand of understated eloquence that Tom brought to I Need You at the Concert For George in 2002. 

    Playing nightly for a week or more in the same venue is not a new concept. It happens in Vegas all the time and early on The Beatles did pretty much the same thing, first in Hamburg, then at UK seaside resorts during 1963 and finally at their Christmas shows at the Finsbury Park Astoria. The Who tried it at the Young Vic in London in early 1971, an ambitious experiment by Pete Townshend that didn’t really work out, and Eric Clapton did it for years at the Royal Albert Hall. Still, Petty & The Heartbreaker’s stint at the Fillmore West was clearly something extra special, for both the band and the audience.

    Tom wanted to get away from the soulless stadiums he and his band had graduated towards, and the whole crew felt the need to do something other than play the same set, their best-known songs, night after night, as they had felt obliged to do when facing audiences of 10,000 or more. This is the result, loving compiled by Mike Campbell now that his boss is no longer with us. “I will always remember those nights with joy and inspiration,” he writes in a preface to the top notch booklet notes by Joel Selvin, rock critic on the San Francisco Examiner

1 comment:

mike said...

And then there's the Allman Brothers at the Beacon!