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Petty's first concert in Little Rock makes up for lost time

By JACK HILL, SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published April 22, 2012 at 2:15 a.m.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had broken a lot of local hearts over the decades, since the group had never rocked Little Rock — or North Little Rock, for that matter — but the band made up for lost time Saturday night at Verizon Arena.

The sold-out crowd of 14,138 (about 40 sad fans were turned away) roared its approval at most every song and move by Petty, and the rest of his band, especially guitarist Mike Campbell, who traded hot licks with Petty on several songs, in the manner of the legendary duets of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. And then there was keyboardist Benmont Tench, who turned a few songs into the coolest tunes since Steve Winwood’s Traffic was around.

Bassist Ron Blair, drummer Steve Ferrone and multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston ably backed the three original Heartbreakers (with Blair having been present at the beginning, and having returned after a long hiatus.) The staging was almost old-style auditorium, with few frills to distract from the solid rock on display.

Petty, still boyish at 61, expressed his amazement at his reception and promised to return, which would seem to a wise thing to do, since thunderous applause accompanied his every move, beginning with the band’s first song, “Listen to Her Heart,” and continuing through 18 more songs over almost two hours.

There were the big hits, such as “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” “Running Down a Dream” and ‘Refugee,” but there were plenty of more obscure songs that never got much radio play, such as “You Wreck Me,” “Takin’ My Time,” “Spike” and “Good Enough,” plus a nice version of The Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care.”

“Melinda” was a powerful statement of the band’s level of communication, and the band roared toward a stunning encore of two songs: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “American Girl,” and no one expected more from these spent road warriors.

Opening act Regina Spektor had nearly 45 minutes to showcase her piano and vocal talents, but much of her set consisted of songs from a new album a month away from being released. Recalling the intimate vibe of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco, the Russian-born Spektor’s best-known song, “(They Made a Statue of) Us,” was warmly received.

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notoneofthem says... April 22, 2012 at 11:48 p.m.

Agree with review. Unfortunately, worst ever fan behavior. Years since my last concert. Things change--inevitable. I understand others may express a good time differently. However, can only describe three of the four males in front as douche bags. One was 'douche-iest' and set the standard by which I'll judge future douche bags.
Each guy two beers, no females. Females can sometimes moderate jack-ass behavior. One guy was older and 'cool.' Familial resemblance? Someone's dad?
Chief douche's behavior--every song, nearly relentless "wooooooooooooo...!" Literally, nearly every minute of every song "wooooooooo..." till he ran out of breath, breathed, then continued. He danced nearly incessantly, raised his hand, pointer finger and pinky extended, and shouted things like "I love you Tom Petty." Chief Douche, hereby labeled CD, exhibited martial arts skills all night. CD and his 'bagettes' each procured two more beers apiece, twice. 'Dad' remained cool.
Admittedly, I'm older, conservative, and somewhat set in my ways. I appreciate folk expressing a good time differently.
What of the following? Who would appreciate their wife/girlfriend having CD's pelvis, without actual contact, thrust into the back of her head? You read correctly. He simulated 'skull sex' with the back of that woman's head--no exaggeration. I can't imagine the husband/boyfriend being happy witnessing that sight.
At least that couple wasn't aware of what transpired. Her friend, was less(?) fortunate. When the second husband/boyfriend left briefly, CD tapped the woman's the shoulder, to gain attention for his dancing prowess. She visibly recoiled from pelvic thrusting and other enticing moves. The females were immediately below CD and bagettes. Wooos and fist pumping continued unabated. Some sort of hugging, almost kissing occurred frequently enough that I wondered if the three young guys were... gay? It was strange. Only acting 'bro-ish?' Don't know, but hugely distracting... all... night... long.
Forgot to mention, after the first song, CD apologized TO MY MALE NEIGHBOR for the simulated skull sex. Didn't apologize to the woman. Wasn't caught by her or the male escort--no foul. CD explained he couldn't adequately express himself in any other fashion. A reiteration, no exaggerating.
I tried tuning out CD and bagettes, honestly. Their invasive actions caught my attention despite massive concentration on keyboardist Benmont Tench when he 'went to town' doing a solo during the 12th(?) song. Remember Tench in flood lights? CD and the bagettes tried convincing me their act was better.
Tom and crew were great. Would like to have heard I Need To Know. Twentieth(?) icing layer on a marvelous cake! Tom seemed genuinely appreciative of Little Rock. Had to suppress images of REDRUM, REDRUM from Stephen King's The Shining, that and me with an ice pick in my hand. Yeah, Tom and crew were great. Good night out!

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Lovebaseball says... April 23, 2012 at 3:46 p.m.

What a GREAT show! I went to the concert with my brother & sister (ages 46, 49 & 50), and we had a blast! Combined with the fantastic music and great crowd participation, I also LOVED the diversity of the crowd. I didn't have the experience as "notoneofthem." What I encountered were young, middle-aged (me), and old peeps rocking the full house. The guy sitting next to me was easily in his 70s, and I just thought, "rock on, dude!" Easily the best show I've ever seen in Little Rock, and I certainly hope Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers come back to Little Rock.

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