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Petty, Heartbreakers bringing 'last big one' to Verizon

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published April 20, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

tom-petty-the-heartbreakers-perform-at-verizon-arena-sunday

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers perform at Verizon Arena Sunday.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Opening act: Joe Walsh

7:30 p.m. Sunday, Verizon Arena, North Little Rock

Admission: $39.50-$129.50

(800) 745-3000, ticketmaster.com

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers seem to be taking cues from The Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones have always hinted that whatever tour the band was on, might be, just could be, "the last time." Why, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards even wrote a 1965 song whose chorus began with "This could be the last time, maybe the last time, I don't know."

And now it's Tom Petty, 66, suggesting it might be the final time for his band, which is currently marking 40 years of music with a tour that's barely gotten started. (The central Arkansas show Sunday night at Verizon Arena will be the third, following Oklahoma City tonight and Dallas on Saturday.)

Hints were dropped in the Jan. 12-26 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, which attached the headline "Petty's 'Last Big One'?" to their informed speculation that Petty could be slowing down, if not actually stopping.

"It might be the last big one," Petty told reporter Andy Greene. "I'm thinking it might be the last trip around the country. It's very likely we'll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don't think so. We're all on the back side of our 60s. I have a granddaughter I'd like to see as much as I can."

Petty's Heartbreakers are mostly a loyal bunch. Guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench have been alongside Petty since the self-titled 1976 debut album, famous for its hits "Breakdown" and "American Girl." Drummer Stan Lynch was fired in 1994, with Steve Ferrone now behind the drum kit. Bassist Ron Blair left in 1982, but returned 20 years later, replacing his own replacement (Howie Epstein). Plus there's a "new" guy -- multi-instrumentalist and harmony singer Scott Thurston -- who came along in 1991.

And while bands used to record and release new albums before touring, that's not so much the case any more. Petty and his band are commemorating their 40th anniversary by releasing two companion vinyl record boxed sets featuring their entire studio album repertoire.

Press materials indicate the albums have been pressed on 180-gram vinyl records with replica artwork (and it's noted that several of the albums have been out of print on vinyl for years and most of them have been remastered for this release.) In other words, if you bought the group's LPs years ago, wore them out and maybe bought replacement CDs, here's your chance to start over with the vinyl versions again.

Petty's only previous show in central Arkansas was almost exactly five years ago; the sold-out show drew 14,138 fans.

Opening act Joe Walsh, however, knows his way around both sides of the Arkansas River, having done shows at Barton Coliseum as a member of The James Gang, and later performing outdoors on both sides of the river, leading his own group or playing as a member of ex-brother-in-law Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.

With Walsh, 69, on the bill, fans may be hoping for some onstage interplay between Walsh and Campbell, two of rock 'n' roll's most prominent guitar wizards, and maybe even some vocal contributions from Walsh with Petty or vice versa.

For a time, after the death in 2016 of Glenn Frey, it seemed that Walsh's most heralded gig, as a member of The Eagles, was finished, but recent developments point to more shows by that venerable band, July 15-16 in Los Angeles and July 29-30 in New York. In 2016, Walsh co-headlined a 25-date jaunt with Bad Company called the "One Hell of a Night" tour.

In other words, to use Walsh's immortal words, "life's been good" for this "ordinary, average guy."

Weekend on 04/20/2017

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