Published Aug 27, 2014At the time of this writing, Tom Petty and Steve Winwood are at the collective age of 129. That strikes me as a little sad, because while acts like White Denim, Wilco and (it pains me to admit this) John Mayer are keeping the sick licks and boogie-woogie alive in old-fashioned rock'n'roll, there's still a certain carefree, go-with-the-flow attitude missing from the current crop of rockers.
But if Petty and Winwood represent the last vestiges of FM rock, at least they're not going out without a fight. Tuesday night's Air Canada Centre performance was a prime example of that, as the two guitar gods took the grey-haired hippies and Cabo Wabo crowd on a tour of what's missing in modern rock.
Starting the evening off was Winwood. As the mastermind behind such groups as Traffic, Blind Faith and his own powerful solo career, it was a little odd seeing the famed British songwriter open for a man three years his junior (well, Petty is 63, but still). Nevertheless, the Birmingham blues master just looked happy to be there, beaming eye-to-eye while playing such hits as "Them Changes," "Can't Find My Way Home" and the criminally-underrated '80s classic "Higher Love." Keeping things tight and jammy, Winwood saved perhaps the best for last, performing a near-perfect "Gimme Some Lovin'."
After a brief break in which the lower bowl filled up with some straggling seniors and the occasional stoner, Tom Petty and his road-hardened backup band the Heartbreakers took the stage, diving headfirst into renditions of the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and crunchy rock number "American Dream Plan B" from their recent Hypnotic Eye LP. (Thankfully, for some, this would be one of only two new tracks played that night.)
"Into the Great Wide Open" helped blow the crowd away, but it was Full Moon Fever sing-alongs "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Fallin'" that got everyone grooving.
With such an expansive back catalogue, each show by the band is bound to have a few stinkers. This performance's came about midway through the set, with "A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)" limping alongside a lacklustre "Rebels," but the subtle nuances of semi-acoustic numbers "Yer So Bad" and "Learning to Fly" helped turn the tides.
Damn the Torpedoes' "Refugee" finally got the crowd to their feet and healthy hits like "Runnin' Down a Dream" and MTV circa-1985 staple "Don't Come Around Here No More" that kept fans standing.
"Rock'n'roll is alive," Petty told the crowd, clearly impressed by their energy. "Rock'n'roll will never let you down." And with that, he stood by his word, performing a blistering cover of Paul Revere & the Raiders' "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" and his own crushing number, "You Wreck Me."
Last but not least, the band played through a pitch-perfect "American Girl." Although a bit predictable of an ending to the night, it was nevertheless an exhilarating performance from the American powerhouse, and proved that both acts still have what it takes to cause a large crowd to cheer.
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