Tom Petty is a tuxedo in a world of leisure suits, Jamaican coffee in a world of Sanka, a Rolls-Royce convertible in a world of K cars. Not to overstate the matter, but Tom Petty has class.
Last night, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers curled a few acoustic tiles at the Merriweather Post Pavilion with a performance that was loud, raw, smooth, polished and brought off with style and panache. In short, a near perfect rock 'n' roll show.
Like many artists of the early '80s (George Lucas also springs to mind), Petty is aderivative creator -- he takes the devices of an earlier era (in this case '60s rock in all its guises) and adds his own personal touches. The result is music that is at once old and new, nostalgic yet fresh and surprising.
Backed by the Heartbreakers, a sturdy and sensitive group, Petty mixed R&B, folk rock and ybritish blues with a vaguely new-wavish approach.His vocals and stage manner were drawn from various musicians -- Dylan, James Brown, Roger Daltry, Ray Charles (to name but a few) -- yet somehow the end product seemed to be Petty himself. Likewise, his own songs and the classics that he also featured were welded together into a seamless whole -- songs such as "I need to Know" mixed quite comfortably with "Hit the Road, Jack."
He opened his encore with the first notes of "It's Alright," the number the Stones used for their finale in 1965. A nice touch to a very, very nice concert.