Ron Blair - bass; Mike Campbell - guitar; Stan Lynch - drums; Tom Petty - vocals, guitar; Benmont Tench - piano, organ
Little in this life is certain, but three things are guaranteed - death, taxes and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen before him, Tom Petty is of that rare breed that manages to always make kick ass rock 'n' roll on their own terms while still selling millions of records. Though neither as famously populist as Bruce, nor as creatively reckless as Neil (and far less likely to fall flat on his face because of it), Petty and his crew succeeded in crafting an instantly recognizable and utterly flawless blend of all the best aspects of all the best rock music that preceded them, also providing an essential link between '60s folk and garage rock and the eventual alt-country/Americana movement (cross The Eagles and Poco off the list, then draw a line straight from The Byrds and Crazy Horse to Petty - Done).
The Heartbreakers received a hero's welcome when they returned to London in support of their landmark 1979 release, Damn the Torpedoes, having first made a name for themselves in the U.K. following their debut in 1976. There aren't a lot of surprises in this set from early 1980 at the fabled Hammersmith Odeon, but surprises aren't really what Pettyphiles are after. What the roaring crowds had already come to expect was a collection of simply rendered, great rock 'n' roll songs - and here it is. The boys offer solid readings of all their popular hits from that era, as well as a few spirited covers (could that Eddie Cochrane number be a nod to local villains The Sex Pistols who covered the same track shortly before imploding?).
More original performers may have stomped this hallowed stage, but few did it with such effortless swagger. Mike Campbell is truly one of the unsung greats of the electric guitar and his tasteful, Harrison-esque textures are plainly evident throughout the entire evening. And if hearing "American Girl" and "Breakdown" one more time doesn't appeal, stick it out anyway for closer "Century City," a hidden gem from Torpedoes that hasn't been exhausted by ubiquity.
Like the Good Doctor said, the times are bound to get a bit weird; sometimes it's enough to make you wanna stick your fingers in your ears until someone reissues some twenty-year-old forgotten record that reminds you why you bought the damn turntable in the first place. But when the times get weird, fear not, Gentle Listener. No matter what is going on in the world or what tepid drivel is pouring out of the radio, just remember that somewhere out there, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are rocking for all of us.