by Julian Spivey
The legendary Tom Petty would’ve turned 70 years old on Tuesday, Oct. 20 and in celebration of Petty’s birthday his family and friends threw him a birthday bash streaming special that celebrated his life and highlighted his music for nearly three hours on Friday night (Oct. 23).
The concert streamed on tompetty.com and Amazon Music’s Twitch channel and remains at both places if you missed it the first time around and are looking for a terrific celebration of Petty’s music (I’m not sure how long the birthday bash tribute will remain at either location).
More than 25 artists performed on the video streaming portion of the tribute, with many more having performed prior to that in an extended audio-only version that aired on Tom Petty’s SiriusXM station. The artists ranged from Petty’s friends and collaborators like Jackson Browne, Dave Stewart and Roger McGuinn to numerous artists influenced by his career like Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Gary Clark Jr., and many more.
One of the tribute’s highlights included Heartbreakers guitars Mike Campbell and pianist Benmont Tench wrapping up the show with a three-song performance, saying it’s the first time they’ve performed together in more than two years. Tench put a beautifully reserved piano-driven spin on my favorite Petty and the Heartbreakers song “American Girl,” that turned a guitar charging rock song into something you’d hear in a piano bar. Campbell took lead on the bluesy “Something Good Coming,” off the group’s 2010 release Mojo. The duo then ended the evening with a performance of “We What Boogie ‘Round Midnight,” a song Campbell said a performer from their hometown of Gainesville, Fla. would play to wrap up each night and then the next day when some socially-conscious performers would come back to clean up.
I had numerous favorite performances from the birthday bash tribute special, including Jackson Browne’s cover of “The Waiting,” Margo Price and Lukas Nelson duetting on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (which Petty and the Heartbreakers collaborated on with Stevie Nicks) and then Nelson performing “Southern Accents” and Price performing “Crawling Back to You,” which are two of my favorite non-single tracks from Petty.
I really enjoyed the Foo Fighters performance of “Honey Bee,” which clearly came from the Grammy’s MusicCares Person of the Year tribute from a few years ago as you could see a crowd of people in the audience. Gary Clark Jr.’s great performance of “Good Enough” came from that same evening. To my knowledge that show has never been aired anywhere in its entirety, which is a shame because I’d love to get a look at George Strait’s take on “You Wreck Me” and some of the evening’s other performances.
Among other performances I truly enjoyed from Friday’s stream were Stephen Still’s doing “I Won’t Back Down” with his son Christopher, Spoon’s cover of “Breakdown,” Brandi Carlile’s beautiful vocals on “Wildflowers” and Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers doing “Walls.” Lucinda Williams, who was the final opening artist for Petty’s final shows in 2017, did a rocking version of “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
The worst performance of the evening was Beck doing “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” The performance itself likely wasn’t that bad, but the sound was, by far, the worst of the evening with bad acoustics and seemingly worse production that everything else from the evening.
One thing the evening reminds everybody of – though it’s not something one should have forgotten – is that Petty was simply one of the greatest songwriters of all-time.