Oct. 11, 2014

Tom Petty: Not a 'Forgotten Man' at L.A. Forum

"When I aim at left/And I aim to the right/I ain't even sure/I got a dog in the FIGHT"
(Tom Petty 'Shadow People')

by Marc Platt
October 10, 2014

Tom Petty will turn 64 years old on October 20, 2014.

He played and sang like a man half his age to an adoring crowd at the Fabulous Forum 34 years after first appearing there. I was there that night in 1980 when he opened the show with his anthemic "American Girl" behind a black see-through screen reminiscent of 'Beatlemania,' the stageshow that was popular at the time. I was mesmerized by Petty that night by the fact that he would OPEN a show with his most popular song.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have had a long, long very successful run with many ups and a very few downs. Petty has 16 studio releases in 38 years as a recording artist. He has so many hits that he didn't get to tonight, I was even more impressed. He DIDN'T play "The Waiting," "Listen To Her Heart," "Don't Do Me Like That" or "Breakdown." How impressive is that?

Petty and his fine band played a more acoustic version of 1985 'Southern Accents' "Rebels." A fine acoustic-tinged version of 1991 "Under The Great Wide Open," a song that has special meaning to Petty, since that was the year and album The Heartbreakers reformed after a hiatus. The song had extra punch and meaning as these are the last two dates of the tour and it felt like a homecoming.

Petty referenced the fact that they have lived in Los Angeles for nearly 40 years "Which makes us kind of an L.A. band." Truer words were not spoken on the Forum stage tonight. I personally saw Tom Petty jump up on stage with the Plimsouls in 1979 at the Whiskey to sing an encore with that fine band. You would see Benmont Tench all around town playing keyboards with various bands.

This was not an L.A. club band, but they were certainly part of the scene in the 1980s and 1990s.

Petty played most of the hits, but also played Paul Revere and the Raiders "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" with a fine tribute to the recently-deceased Paul Revere. They Opened the show with The Byrds "So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star" and completely killed that song like always.

I was most impressed with the unabashedly rocking versions of the four new songs from their first Billboard #1 album 'Hypnotic Eye.'

"American Dream Plan B" started the proceedings. This song really starts to open Petty up to his newfound political awareness in his music: "I'm gonna make my way through this world someday/I don't care what nobody say/American dream, political scheme/I'm gonna find out for myself someday." Petty made hand gestures throughout the telling of these songs.

"Forgotten Man" is my personal favorite of the new songs. When he sings "Well, I feel like I'm a 4 letter word/I know I feel confused/Angry words can piss someone off/Our soul can sense someone" I truly get it. He is a 60+ man continuing to defy the odds and having to ignore the critics who may or may not think he is relevant anymore. I am here to tell you, Tom Petty is more relevant today than ANY (including U2) of his contemporaries. Petty had a legitimate number One album without the aid of Apple/iTunes. This album is in my Tom Petty Top Three.

"Shadow People" was especially moving in our current political climate: "And this one carries a gun for the USA/He's a 20th century man/And he's scarry as hell Cause he isn't afraid/He will destroy anything/You don't understand."

Tom Petty is laying it all out there. This man has worked with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon. He is a survivor and right now the LEADING pop poet and he is about to turn 64 years old.

It was only fitting that Tom Petty and his amazing band would END the night with "American Girl," still relevant after all these years!