Judge Mitchell Hattaway has definitely gone gator.
Our reviews of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Damn The Torpedoes (published August 16th, 2010), Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Damn The Torpedoes (Blu-Ray) (published August 25th, 2010), Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: High Grass Dogs (published December 24th, 1999), and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Live in Concert (Blu-ray) (published January 5th, 2012) are also available.
Martina Navratilova has a band?
Way back in the early 1970s, singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Petty and guitarist Mike Campbell were in a little Florida band named Mudcrutch, which was relatively successful in the Southeast but unknown throughout the rest of the country. Hungry for a record deal, Petty and Campbell left Florida and headed for California; somewhere along the way they picked up keyboardist Benmont Tench, hooked up with bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch (both fellow Floridians), and changed the name of the band to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Denny Cordell's Shelter Records released the band's self-titled debut album in 1976, and since then the band has weathered two label changes, Petty's bankruptcy, Petty's broken hand, Petty's battle with Universal over the retail price of the band's albums, an arsonist setting fire to Petty's home, and a couple of shakeups in the rhythm section. Oh, yeah, they've also made some great music and been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Not bad, huh?
The band hit the Soundstage theater in 2003; the plan called for them to play 13 or 14 songs, but they ended up playing more than thirty. They mixed original material (including three new songs) with a variety of covers and even tossed in a tune from Petty's days as a Traveling Wilbury. The original broadcast of this two-part episode of the PBS series featured 22 songs from the band. Here's the track listing:
• "Baby Please Don't Go"
• "Love Is A Long Road"
• "Down Home Girl"
Not a bad set, huh? It's made even better by the fact that these guys are an absolutely great live band. Three of them have been playing together for the better part of 30 years, and they've lost none of their dynamic or energy. Each member is also a damn fine musician in his own right. Mike Campbell is one of rock's great unsung guitarists (check out his slide work on "Red Rooster"); hopefully someday he'll receive the recognition he deserves. Benmont Tench is an amazing keyboardist; apparently he's also able to play just about every song ever written. As for Petty…well, I've heard him pegged as a Dylan-wannabe, but that's nothing more than a cheap shot. The man's a great songwriter, a very good rhythm guitarist, and I think the cover songs here leave no room for doubt about his singing abilities (he takes JJ Cale's "Thirteen Days" and makes it his own).
As I mentioned earlier, the band's rhythm section has changed a bit over the years. Ron Blair, having grown tired of the band's relentless touring schedule, left in the early 1980s (seems I once heard Petty say Blair opened a bikini shop). Blair was replaced by Howie Epstein, but returned to the fold in 2002 as Epstein sank deeper into heroin addiction (an addiction that led to Epstein's death in 2003). Stan Lynch left in 1994, at which time Steve Ferrone, who had drummed for Eric Clapton and The Average White Band, came onboard. The band also picked up multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston in the early '90s. Thing is, the newer (and one older) members sound like they've always been with the band. So while many of the band's contemporaries have lost some (or most) of their drive, relevance, and spark over the years (coughAerosmithcough), the Heartbreakers still know how to make great music and put on a fantastic show. If you can't catch them in person, a release such as this is the next best thing.
The 2003 season of Soundstage was the first to be filmed in 1080i high definition, and the results look very nice (although I still don't understand why they're releasing full frame transfers). Colors are fantastic, and there's an amazing amount of depth to the picture. The only problems are a minor bit of edge enhancement and some artifacting (check out the rugs covering the stage floor). Audio options include stereo and 5.1 mixes, both of which sound very good, although there's not a whole lot of surround action in the 5.1 mix (mostly crowd noise). There's one very peculiar quirk to the 5.1 mix: The center channel drops out completely during the moments between songs, making it almost impossible to hear anything Petty says to the audience. As is the case with most Soundstage releases, the extras are underwhelming. The interview consists of two questions, the biography contains very little information, and the photo gallery is nothing more than stills from the show. There's also a glaring mistake in some of the band information: Steve Ferrone is listed as having joined in 1984 (poor guy's only afforded a two-line bio and somebody still managed to screw it up). Personally, I'm not bothered by the lackluster nature of the extras; the more than two hours of great music more than makes up for any shortcomings.
Let's sum up: great band, great music, great concert. Most highly recommended. Now let me head on down the road—there's somewhere I gotta go.
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