Photos by Angelo Marchini
Toronto music fans were treated with a visit from a rock and roll legend this past weekend. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers brought their 40th anniversary tour to the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night. Fans young and old turned up to the sold out show expressing their love for Tom Petty and his band. The entire crowd stood as Petty took the stage and was greeted with applause and cheers that you would normally only hear at the end of your average concert. It was clear early on that the fans were die-hards and that this concert would be one to remember. Between every song the crowd roared as if they were trying to coax the icon out for an encore. It’s no shock that Petty inevitably played beyond the typical 11pm cut off time. The love was felt both ways; as fans applauded Petty, he constantly expressed his gratitude in return.
The set kicked off around 9:20pm with the song Rockin’Around (With You) from their self-titled debut album Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Then came the first massive hit of the evening, Mary Jane’s Last Dance. It was promptly followed up with the similarly themed You Don’t Know How It Feels. The stage lit up green as some fans also lit up. The aroma could be smelled throughout the rest of the evening, to which no single person was surprised by. Forgotten Man from their most recent album was nestled in between those and another massive song I Won’t Back Down.
After the run of hits, the crowd was elated and somehow even louder than when the icon first took the stage. As everyone was floating up high, Tom brought the crowd together for arguably the biggest sing-along of the night, Free Fallin’. The crowd sang nearly every word in unison from the start of the song to the finish. It already felt like there were so many massive songs played at such an early point of the night. I wondered if they would keep running through the hits or take a break and focus on some deep cuts.
The next group of songs began with the track Walls from the motion picture soundtrack to She’s The One, followed by yet another hit Don’t Come Around Here No More. Inevitably Petty and the band stepped away from the huge songs and played through a few songs from Tom Petty’s 1994 album Wildflowers. The three songs from Wildflowers came in the form of the tracks It’s Good to Be King, Crawling Back to You and Wildflowers.
They then returned to the parade of huge hits with Learning to Fly. Another classic song had the crowd singing in unison once again. Next they went into Yer So Bad from the Tom Petty album Full Moon Fever. The end of the first set was a run of high energy hits. The first of the three was I Should Have Known It, followed by another iconic Petty song, Refugee. The clock was nearing the typical concert cut off time, but it never felt like this show was going to end at 11pm. They wrapped up the main set with one of the iconic driving songs in American music, Runnin’ Down a Dream. The band left the stage as the lights went down. Stage hands could be seen running around and repositioning things. The crowd realized that this show wasn’t over, they roared and clapped with the same intensity present throughout the entirety of the evening.
The rock and roll hall of famers returned to the stage much to the delight of the crowd. Playing into the rarely seen post 11pm time slot. Though everyone would have gladly taken a four or five song encore, it was a great luxury that they were allowed to run late. They had time for two more songs, and you know they were going to be huge. They started the encore with You Wreck Me from the album Wildflowers. They then broke into the iconic hit single American Girl from their 1976 debut album. It was a very fitting way to end the night as it was one of their very first hits. The crowd sang along to nearly every word and gave Petty and the band a sending off that any musician surely dreams of early in their career.
The 40th anniversary tour of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers netted a fantastic evening of career spanning hits. Petty himself said “We’re gonna treat this night like a giant one-sided vinyl record and just pick up and drop the needle all over…”. That’s exactly how the evening felt. So many songs that have been featured in pop-culture over the span of their career were heard. Songs that are mainstays on any classic rock radio station. Yet somehow going through their catalogue there are still so many hits not heard on this night. It really puts things into perspective just how much of an impact they’ve had on music. It was a great pleasure to see some true legends perform some of the biggest songs of their career.