Denver redefined joining the Mile High Club when the city played host to an all-star evening led by rock legends Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. The Pepsi Center was standing room only and the crowd hailed from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest ... all there to cheer on The Heartbreakers as they celebrated their 30th anniversary with thousands of their closest friends!
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Story and photos by Janice French
Surrounded by wide open skies, pine trees, green meadows and sweeping vistas of the high
country's stony peaks, Denver was the perfect setting to see Tom Petty And The Heart Breakers with Pearl Jam.
Every hotel in town was packed with fans from all over to see these two monoliths of rock come together to entertain a starry-eyed and excited crowd,
which would number in excess of 30,000.
A hard rain beat down on the people waiting in line. Music from local radio
stations filled the air and pre-concert tailgate parties thrived ... despite the downpour. Inside the
Pepsi Center arena there was a tangible excitement in the air.
As the place filled the stage was set up and people chattered with excitement while the impatient shouted. Peal Jam put on an outstanding set. Eddie Vedder seemed almost shy at first. He put on no
airs. He was genuine and real and his music reflected it as he slowly opened up and turned on the power.
The crowd just went insane, singing along and rocking out.
Then it was time for the main event. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers entered the stage to a thundering roar that echoed
throughout the arena. Tom said
"How the hell are you today? This is a genuine all American rock and roll show celebrating our 30th
anniversary!" He picked up an acoustic guitar and launched into "I Won't Back
Down" as the whole crowd shouted and sang it with him.
Under golden lights the band began
"Free Fallin'." Tom's vox were clear and crisp, warmly simple and confident. He finished the
song by raising his hand upward with flair,
"People thank you so much, it's been four years and three weeks since our last album and now
we're bringing out a new CD!" Guitarist Mike Campbell fired off a galloping riff
on the guitar as Tom rocked up and down. The keyboards kicked in then the full instrumentals pounded into a perfect
When the undeniably addictive instrumentals to "Last Dance With Mary Jane" began the audience returned a deafening roar. Amongst their most beloved songs, its funky, southern style was like a low down warm sunny day on a porch. Scott
Thurston played the harmonica then Tom leaned into the mic and shook his head while singing
"I feel summer creeping in and I'm tired of this town againâ€¦" Near the finish Tom stepped back and powered out a sweet riff with
Mike, who then took it to the next level with a killer solo lick that ended in a rousing
cheer from the crowd.
Tom took off his jacket, but hadn't even broken a sweat yet. He was in command of thousands, smiling and loving it as, on a glowing red stage, he launched into a cover of The
Yardbirds' "I'm A Man." Scott played the harmonica and tambourine during this piece while
Steve's drum line drove it along just fine.
Eddie Vedder & Tom Petty
They played the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care" and Tom introduced the band.
"Benmont (Ray) Tench on the piano. The man who keeps us going: my brother Scott
Thurston. It's like standing in front of a freight train ... Steve Ferrone on drums!
Once a Heartbreaker, always a Heartbreaker ... Ron Blair on bass and Mike Campbell on lead
Eddie Vedder walked onto the stage. He was almost bashful when they
first interacted, but it soon became clear that these two guys were tight friends. They sang
"The Waiting." During the song Tom took to the lead guitar and played a
beautifully warm and soulful bridge that was like water rolling over smooth rocks in the sun. He absolutely shined. Fueled by pounding drums, this piece built up to an explosive crescendo that softly fell back down to poignancy while maintaining the tension and flowing back into
Tom's and Eddie's velvet vocals with ease. I was blown away by the polished instrumental delivery.
Tom worked the stage and shook his finger at the crowd during "Too Much Ain't
Enough." They watched him delightedly and sang along with "Don't Come Around Here No
More." Then in red and yellow lights with flames on the background screens they played
"Refugee" and the song took its toll, propelling the crazed mob into a frenzy of hands beating the air. The band left the stage. It was absolute pandemonium as the standing, packed arena yelled and screamed demanding more. I had to cover my ears. The band returned and launched into
"You Wreck Me." The entire house was rocking and singing. People were visibly moved.
They performed Van Morrison's "Mystic Eyes." Tom held his arms out to the side and declared
"Oh people you make me feel so good!" Scott played the harmonica, Ron's bass just chugged away, and the tension built. The guitars were piercing and Tom shouted
"Wouldn't it be great if for one moment everything was all right?" Then pointed "Ray play the
piano!" who returned the call with a cascading run down the keys, the crowd roared. Tom leaned forward and whispered
"Your mystic eyesâ€¦" It was amazing. Tom sang
"Thank you so much people!" The drums boomed, strobe lights flashed and Eddie Vedder returned to the stage joining in on
"American Girl." When it was all over Tom said "Thank you people, God Bless, we'll see you
later!" and they left for the last time.
I loved every minute of this incredible performance and it drove home the impact of this special
band's music. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers' songs are a part of us, ingrained in the American psyche and a bright golden thread woven into the tapestry of our lives.