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Tom Petty "Plays his Heart out in San Francisco"...3/10/99

It was just one of the seven sold-out shows at the Fillmore, from the first song of Chuck Berry's "Round and Round," it was clear Petty and his crew were out to create a high-spirited night of rock & roll. This was the next series of their unprecedented 20-show run at the Fillmore two years ago. This night was like stepping back in time at the old Fillmore. The only difference was the price of the ticket, i.e. $45 or $200 scalpers price, but looking at the way his fans responded to his music it didn't seem to matter. Tom Petty was fantastic, from the stomp of "Jamming' Me," followed by an absolutely blistering "Running' Down a Dream." No matter how many times you've heard the screaming guitar solo on that one, nothing can compare with actually hearing Mike Campbell pull it off live, what a superb guitar master. When Tom played "It's Good to Be King " done at a slower pace, you could capture the emotion of sailing along with him on that one. The song "You Don't Know How It Feels," evoked a memories of the Stones. Tom was happy and smiling, like running on a dream. That was pretty much the pattern for the evening. Hard-rock crunch gave way to tender bluegrass with a country twang. They had fun with "Telstar," a 1963 hit for the Tornadoes (believe me, you've heard it). Petty and his five-man band sprang into "Wildflowers", turning it into a majestic rumination with an explosive middle and a nearly psychedelic jam at the end. They also played a few new songs from the new album "Echo," set to be released April 13. From the sound of these songs, the group isn't just retreading old hits; the signature sound is there. This in spite of a Dylan presence both in Petty's vocals and the bitter sentiments of "You're a Free Girl Now," a hard-driving number with a pummeling beat courtesy of drummer Steve Ferrone, a relative newcomer to the band. It'll be interesting to hear the new album to see if the Petty touch is still intact. Petty himself didn't seem worried one way or the other. He just looked like he was having a good time. Those who've never seen the band live might be surprised by how often Petty takes the lead on guitar or trades it with Campbell. His playing was sharp and masterly, as was his singing. And he seemed fully at ease from start to finish. At 46, Petty is a veteran who shows no sign of be giving up.

.........................................................By Randy Cohen

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