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Tom Petty Took His Songbook For A Victory Lap Around Wrigley Field

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 30, 2017 5:27PM

Tom Petty, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

"Look at tonight like a one-sided album and we're just going to drop the needle up and down it," Tom Petty said early into his show at Wrigley Field Thursday night. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are celebrating 40 years of making music together, and their current tour is serving as a chance for the band to just enjoy the moment, with no new release—outside a vinyl reissue of their catalog—to promote.

The band opened the show with the dusty nugget "Rockin' Around (With You)," the very first song off their self-titled 1976 debut album, leading to hopes that this setlist might be one to dust off more unexpected deep cuts from the group's vast catalog. When playing a venue like Wrigley Field, there's always a hope that visiting acts will take that as an opportunity to craft a unique show.

Instead, Petty and his Heartbeakers stuck to the same set list they've been playing on other stops for this tour, which meant little room for genuine surprises, but also meant that the crowd was treated to a sturdy trip through both the band and solo Petty songbook.

After the throwback opening song, the band immediately went for the heavy hitters, sending chills down my back with the opening chords of "Mary Jane's Last Dance," and then leading into a crowd sing-along with "You Don't Know How It Feels."

"We haven't played this song in 30 years," said Petty as he introduced "You Got Lucky," It seemed impossible that this classic, with its spooky, creeping synthesizer, had lain dormant for so long. But it did at least itch the scratch I had for the unexpected to pop up during the set.

And then there were the massive hits. On "Free Falling" and "I Won't Back Down" the audience frequently drowned out Petty's vocals, joyously channeling the memories the songs unearthed. "Don't Come Around Here No More" was extended into a jam, edging on the psychedelic during the song's middle section, before the band ripped into the hard rocking coda that sprints to finish that tune. The moment left both band and audience a bit winded.

A trio of songs from Petty's 1994 solo album Wildflowers provided a rest stop of sorts halfway through the show. The momentum slowed, the crowd took beer and bathroom breaks, and I began to worry that perhaps we were heading into territory Petty would have trouble wrangling people back in from. But the respite was broken by the one-two attack of "Learning to Fly"—prompting another sing-along—and "Yer So Bad," that literally triggered mad dancing in the aisles. From this point on the show packed wallop after wallop.

"I Should Have Known It" was transformed into an amp-cranked, swampy jam as Petty dropped his guitar for the first time to simply play singing frontman. "Refugee" prompted more mad dancing that led directly into a turbo-charged version of "Running Down A Dream." And my eyes might have been playing tricks on me, but buried under the hypnotically geometric light patterns on the screen behind the stage, I could swear I saw a photo of a stadium being prepared to become a concert hall, perhaps making some meta-commentary on Petty and company having finally caught up with their dream. Balloon lights that had been hovering above the stage flickered and blinked to spell out "TPBH"—a subtly tasteful treat to anyone paying close attention—to close out the set.

Tom Petty and Steve Ferrone, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

The band returned after a brief break, with Petty wearing a Cubs Jersey with his name and the number 40 emblazoned across the back, to rip into "You Wreck Me." Closing with
a charged-up version of "American Girl," guitarist Mike Campbell appeared to be trying to rip his guitar apart with his bare hands, while Petty was still all smiles. As the final chords wound down, fireworks erupted over Wrigley Field and the band took a well deserved group bow.

Full setlist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker at Wrigley Field, June 29, 2017

Rockin' Around (With You)
Mary Jane's Last Dance
You Don't Know How It Feels
Forgotten Man
You Got Lucky
I Won't Back Down
Free Fallin'
Into the Great Wide Open
Don't Come Around Here No More
(Band intros)
It's Good to Be King
Crawling Back to You
Learning to Fly
Yer So Bad
I Should Have Known It
Runnin' Down a Dream

You Wreck Me
American Girl