Tom Petty has been writing good songs for so long its easy to take him for granted. I suspect that like Bruce Springsteen, he doesnt carry a lot of weight with young rock fans, but he has remained commercially successful for nearly 30 years without compromising his integrity as a rock'n'roll songwriter and singer. He has never let himself coast. Soundstage Presents Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Live in Concert shows Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, in strong form, playing songs from their entire career, along with some surprising old tunes by others.
PBS originally broadcast this 2003 performance over two nights, and the two-DVD set adds another half-hour of live footage, including two songs from an earlier show in Los Angeles. Disc one opens with a stirring version of "Baby, Please Dont Go" that takes its cue from Van Morrison and Thems 1964 recording. Throughout the show, Petty places other songs from rocks past, including the Animals "Im Cryin" and the Stones obscure gem "Down Home Girl," alongside his own tunes, demonstrating his solid craftsmanship while paying tribute to its source.
The Heartbreakers are a big reason Pettys records are so good, and here he lets them show off, especially guitarist Mike Campbell. Theres a 5.1 mix on the DVDs, but I usually find I prefer two-channel playback for live performances. I found the sound to be generally good -- not CD or vinyl quality, but punchy and up-front with, I believe, a bit of tape hiss. The extra 32 minutes on disc two are very good, the extras on disc one negligible. A very enjoyable evening with Tom Petty.
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