Review: Tom Petty doesn’t back down in 1997 Fillmore shows

“Live at the Fillmore (1997),” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Warner Records)

Listening to “Live at the Fillmore (1997)” it’s easy to see why Tom Petty said at the time he thought it was a career highpoint.

This archival release pulls highlights from the final six shows of Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 20-show residency at the Fillmore 25 years ago. It serves as a live tour, of sorts, through rock history, with a heavy emphasis on the influences that shaped Petty’s musical DNA.

Anyone expecting a rundown of Petty’s top 40 hits should look elsewhere. Some of his most loved songs are here, of course, most notably a 10-minute jammed out version of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” But this set is more about Petty and the Heartbreakers going farther afield from what made them famous.

Petty cuts a wide swath, covering songs by collaborator and friend Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Chuck Berry, Bill Withers, the Grateful Dead and more. On the expanded edition, spread over four CDs or six albums, 35 of the 58 tracks are covers.

There is also a two CD set with 33 songs, 18 of which are covers.

Blues legend John Lee Hooker and Roger McGuinn, founder of the Byrds, a seminal influence on Petty and his early sound, also make guest appearances.

It’s easy to hear the joy in Petty’s voice both in the songs and in the breezy on-stage banter, most hilariously his announcement that the show was live on the internet: “Whatever that is.”


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