By Frank E. Lee
A 40th anniversary is a good way to celebrate a round number landmark: plenty of time to assemble a good body of work and not too long in the tooth to be able to carry it off successfully.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers brought the party to a sold out Wrigley Field for a show that Petty compared to dropping the needle at various places on the album of their career.
It started with the debut LP, side one, cut one (“Rockin’ Around (With You”) and jumped all over the record with tracks from the band collectively and Petty’s solo efforts as well. There was vintage video (including footage from the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test), origin stories and lots of tunes from one of the most impressive collections of songs in rock history.
If there were a few longos like a tepid singalong on “Learning To Fly”, a clunky guitar solo from Mr. Petty, and no Kim Basinger on the big screen during “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, those were just a couple of blips on a glorious night.
The band proved they still had plenty of gas in the tank and played up a storm while the rain came down and the crowd danced on the outfield.
“American Girl” wrapped up the evening with images of The Statue of Liberty and a fireworks display sent everyone home happy. Opener Chris Stapleton proved that southern rock is still alive and well.