Nearly 40 years after coming together as a band, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers are still churning out new material and embarking on major tours. 2014 has seen the release of the band’s latest LP, Hypnotic Eye, and just a few weeks ago the band began touring in support of their new music. Touching down at Tulsa’s BOK Center last night, Tom Petty & his crew (along with support act Steve Winwood) played a near two hour show to a massive sold out crowd.
Unlike a normal arena rock show, the venue was almost completely full when opener Steve Winwood walked out on stage. Kicking off with 1967’s I’m a Man, the audience was absolutely enamored with what was happening on stage. Winwood’s hour set found him touching every era of his career. From Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home to Traffic’s Empty Pages, the crowd seemed very happy to journey through Winwood’s discography. Winwood spent equal time between his Hammond organ and his guitar, switching to fill the needs of a given song.
Winwood’s 1986 solo hit Higher Love was a set highlight, with the band stretching the song out into island-tinged jam nearly twice the song’s original length, complete with a fiery solo by guitarist Jose Neto. Winwood ended his set with the Spencer Davis Group’s Gimme Some Lovin’ before walking off stage to thunderous applause. I’ve never seen an opening act received as energetically as Winwood was, and it served as a perfect warm-up for what was about to come.
Starting shortly after 9 p.m., Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers immediately broke into The Byrds’ So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star before moving onto their own 90s mega-hit Mary Jane’s Last Dance. One of Hypnotic Eye‘s new tracks was up next — American Dream Plan B. It was heavy, Petty’s trademark snarling voice backed by almost grunge-like guitar and bass work. Once again, the crowd took me by surprise — at a typical “oldies” show almost no one seems to know the new material, but when I turned around in the photo pit to look at the audience, it seemed like almost everyone was singing along. A+ work, Tulsa crowd.
Petty didn’t speak a whole lot during the evening, but he did joke a bit with the audience, including one crack about Into the Great Wide Open being just about the only thing he could remember from the year 1991. Most of the band’s hits made appearances during the set, including a double header of I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’ that had every single person in the audience singing along.
It was a mostly older audience (as one would probably expect), but that didn’t stop everyone from attempting to dance and sway to the music. Bolstered by alcohol, left and right people were attempting to break it down as hits like Learning to Fly and Runnin’ Down a Dream came to life on stage. It’s pretty much impossible not to people watch at a show like this, and while I’m sure Petty finds humor in his crowd’s dance moves like I do, it must also be quite the thrill that people still want to party and have a good time with his music as the soundtrack, decades after making his debut.
By the time the Petty struck the opening chords of American Girl as the set closer, the band had been on stage for nearly two hours. Petty’s voice sounded as good as it did at the beginning of the show, and although the band had played 18 songs it seemed like they could have kept on playing if they wanted to (and if curfew allowed). I’m damn sure all aged rock fans in the venue would have ate it up, dancing along, smiling until they simply couldn’t move anymore. Ultimately though the band ended a great two hour performance with the fan favorite song, followed by some of the loudest cheering I’ve ever heard at an arena show. Seriously — this arena full of Tom Petty fans was the real deal.
So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, American Dream Plan B, Into the Great Wide Open, Forgotten Man, I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’, A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me), U Get Me High, Rebels, Yer So Bad, Learning to Fly, Shadow People, I Should Have Known It, Refugee, Runnin’ Down a Dream, You Wreck Me, American Girl
I’m a Man, Them Changes, Can’t Find My Way Home, Medicated Goo, Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, Empty Pages, Higher Love, Dear Mr. Fantasy, Gimme Some Lovin’
Check out a few more selected shots from the show below, followed by our full gallery: