Friday Night: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers At The Woodlands

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 24, 2010

For more photos from the show, see our slideshow here.

In a catalog studded with them, one of the saddest songs Tom Petty ever wrote is also one of the most revealing. As far as we know, it's never seen the light of stage since the tour for its parent album, 1999's Echo, but "Room At the Top" described the scene at the Woodlands Friday night to the letter:

I got a room at the top of the world tonight
I can see everything tonight
I got a room where everyone
Can have a drink and forget those things
That went wrong in their life

Those words may look like a party onscreen, but they don't sound like one in the song. "Room At the Top" was written in the midst of Petty's divorce from his first wife, but we wonder if he thinks about those lyrics differently these days. Or, maybe, if something like Friday is what he meant all along.

We don't know how it feels to be him, of course, but from where we were sitting standing, an evening with Petty and his trusty Heartbreakers is as close as we've ever come to a two-hour furlough from this thing called life. Electric word, life, and an electrifying show.

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Friday made us think of "Room At the Top" for another reason too. Petty and the Heartbreakers are at the pinnacle of their profession, with millions of albums sold, a slew of awards, one Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, unyielding adoration from critics and fans alike and, underneath it all, a well-earned reputation as one of the best live bands - if not the best - to ever come down the pike.

Almost 35 years after releasing their first album, Petty and the Heartbreakers have absolutely nothing left to prove. So what do they do now?

Whatever they want to, naturally.

Friday, that included throwing in just enough hits to keep the crowd happy, but besides a sprawling, laser-guided "Don't Come Around Here No More" and riptide "Refugee" that closed the main set, and a potent-as-ever "American Girl" that was the band's goodnight this time around, the hits that stood out were of (relatively) more recent vintage - and the songs that stood out even more weren't hits at all. Yet.

"You Don't Know How It Feels" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance" were held up by the virile harmonica of the Heartbreakers' ace in the hole, utilityman Scott Thurston. It turned out, though, that Thurston was just warming up for "Jefferson Jericho Blues," one of four songs in a row the Heartbreakers played from new album Mojo.

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