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Published: 2005/07/25
by Tim Donnelly

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, The Borgata, Atlantic City, NJ- 7/24

Smash Hits and Rarities From A Gator Gone Wild

When the tour is named "2005 For The Hell Of It Tour (We are a Band it's What We Do)" you have a slight inkling going in that anything is possible, and throw in the fact that that venue holds 3,500 the air was ripe with possibility.

Although he hasn't put out a new record since the release of his concept record The Last DJ in 2002, Petty has taken to the road this summer to breathe new life into his older catalogue and take stabs at the music that matters to him, leaving the show goer waiting and wonton for the next selection, and in Atlantic City it was exactly that.

From the opening jangle of the night's first tune, "Listen to Her Heart" it was obvious that Petty was basking in the intimate environment, throwing up his hands, bowing and blowing kisses to the crowd, all this after one song. He could have left right then and there and it would have been a success.

Petty has long been the voice of unrequited love, the king of one- sided romance, the guy who the chicks always consider their friend. It's amazing that after all of these years, a song like "You Don't Know How It Feels" can take on deeper meaning. Petty throwing in "Breakdown" for his third selection was ridiculously cool as was following it up it with, his first hit single, "Don't Do Me Like That."

"It feels like the old days in here, when we were playing bars," he said before launching into an extended three- way guitar battle with Mike Campbell and Scott Thurston on "Mary Jane's Last Dance."

The dreadlocked (?!) Campbell is the most underrated guitarist in rock history, and I will stand bedrock on that claim. His dexterity, the ability to go from humble to ragged in a split second is undoubting, and his knowledge of where Petty will end up in a jam is second skin like. Keyboardist Benmont Tench is a national treasure especially on his interpretations of "Melinda."

TP and the HB's have always fancied themselves as the greatest bar band in the world and their selection of covers laid stake to the claim that there was not a better cover band anywhere on the planet this night.

Only Dylan himself and Petty can actually get away with playing "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," without beating it to death. The Traveling Wilbury's "Handle With Care" being performed live was beyond gratifying.

Petty introduced by as one of his favorite songs ever as Drummer Steve Ferrone led the punk rock tweaking of The Animals classic, "I'm Crying" as Petty looked at Campbell's Johnny Ramone-like intensity with amazement. But the top surprise of all the covers was Lynryd Skynyrd's hard driving road song, " Call Me The Breeze."

The playful Petty called the crowd, "Sugar, Honey and Baby" all-night and cooed them until the rock couldn't roll no more. For this, Petty's first trip to Atlantic City, I have a funny feeling that The Heartbreakers Beach Party in going to be an annual throw down.

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