Jackson Browne and Tom Petty light up the AutoWest Amphitheater
I’m slowly gaining some appreciation of the colossal rock concert as an art form worthy of investigation and, in some cases, appreciation. Saturday’s show at the AutoWest Amphitheater featuring Jackson Browne and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers did a lot to reinforce that appreciation. And the Amphitheater’s stage amenities—drive-in-theater-sized video screens and a sound system big enough to pack several 18-wheelers—provided the bands with the resources to bring their music to life on a scale to match the setting.
We arrived just as Browne began my favorite of his songs, “Doctor, My Eyes,” and he and his superb band presented the song with every bit of its original polish plus the bonus of a dazzling guitar solo that exemplified the best aspect of the word “jammin'.” The rest of Browne’s set was equally righteous, ranging from familiar classics like “Running on Empty” to the less-familiar but superb “Culver Moon,” and crescendoing with a big party anthem in “For the Rocker.” Hot shit, indeed.
But definitely just a warm-up for rock star supreme Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers. After a suitably long intermission Petty and his crew lit up the stage and launched full force into a hard-charging “Running Down a Dream,” setting the tone for an evening of highly crafted psychedelic pop music that, for me anyway, climaxed with a gorgeously played rendition of the eerie hit, “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” complete with a mind-blowing computer animation light show.
Petty played for a generous two hours and covered most of his own hits as well as Bob Dylan’s "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" and, during the encore, Van Morrison’s "Gloria." The Heartbreakers were beyond awesome throughout, and all in all Petty’s set was a superb example of commercial rock at its unifying best.