Bluesfest Day 10: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers rock the festival’s final night

On the final night of Bluesfest, many great artists took to the stage, but only one name stood out high above them all: Tom Petty.

After solid performances by classic rocker Peter Wolf and Canadian country star Tim Hicks, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers brought their 40th anniversary tour to the City Stage in front of a massive crowd that extended nearly three-quarters of the way down the main lawn on Lebreton Flats.

To say that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers have had a great career would be an understatement. Originally from Gainesville, Fla., the band has sold tens of millions of albums, headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in 2008, and have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“He’s the American classic rock dream, you want to be Tom Petty,” Katie Cranford, a fan of the band, said. “He’s just incredible.”

A diverse crowd of both young and old people who traveled from near and far gathered on the grounds of Lebreton Flats to take in the concert. Cranford was one of the younger fans who came a long way to see Petty perform.

“I came all the way from St. John’s as a convocation gift to myself to see both Muse and Tom Petty, my two favourite bands,” she said. “Once I found out that Muse was coming and then Tom Petty the second night, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go, I can’t miss that.’ ”

“This is a bit of a bucket list thing for me,” said fan Aaron Sabourin. “He’s somebody I’ve always wanted to catch and it’s perfect that he’s here in town.”

Last year, Petty suggested this may be his last big tour with the Heartbreakers. Knowing that, fans were just happy to be a part of a celebration of four decades worth of music.

“I know it’s probably the last time I get to see him,” said James Nelles, who has been a Tom Petty fan since 1978. “Tom’s his own genre, so it’s something special.”

As soon as the band took to the stage, the crowd welcomed them with loud and enthusiastic cheers and applause. Petty said that he would treat the concert like a “one-sided LP,” adding “We’re going to drop the needle wherever we want.”

The band played through a mix of classics and lesser-known songs, getting the crowd to sing all the way along through songs like “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down.” When they got to “Free Fallin’,'” almost everyone in the crowd joined Petty as he belted out the lyrics of the song’s iconic chorus.

Petty made sure to share the love with his Heartbreakers bandmates, some of whom have shared the stage with him since 1975.

“They’ve been a big part of my life, they’re my family,” Petty told the crowd. “You can’t help but to get this close after being together for 40 years.”

A standout in the band was lead guitarist Mike Campbell, who tackled the band’s well-known riffs and solos. Playing with instruments and equipment from the 60s and 70s, the band created an authentic classic rock sound that resonated through the crowd and throughout the night.

“You’ve given us a great gift tonight,” Petty told the crowd. “We’re feeling great.”

The band ended with a performance of “American Girl,” one of their all-time classics.

“It was a great finish to Bluesfest,” said fan Dan Walker. “He’s amazing live, as you would expect for somebody who’s been out there for over 40 years.”

Photo by Mark Horton