The Live Anthology

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers are as recognized for their live performances as they are for their records. Well, at least they should be. A few live CDs and DVDs have effectively caught the band during different phases of their career, but none have gathered it all up and mixed it randomly together. When Petty was picking songs for the multiple-disc The Live Anthology, that was exactly what he had in mind. That and a few other twists and turns are what make this set a real keeper.

Going to a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers concert is like walking into a magical jukebox without limits. Initially signed as a solo act, Petty had the good sense to surround himself with a group of suave, intuitive musicians as vital to the songs as the singer himself. The Heartbreakers without guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench is a ridiculous notion, and nowhere is this more apparent than on The Live Anthology. Sequenced in non-chronological order, there’s a fair share of hits from various years (“Even The Losers” from 1980; “Breakdown” from 1981; “Refugee” from 1983; “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” from 2006), but the real juice is in the deeper, more obscure cuts and covers, where seemingly anything musically challenging could and would happen.

It should come as no surprise when Petty switches gears from Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man” to Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” then jumps over to the Grateful Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” before falling into Van Morrison’s “Mystic Eyes.” The sticky jams ensue, and the apples continue dropping from the tree. How about a whipping “Jammin’Me,” a spot-on “Green Onions,” and the theme from James Bond’s “Goldfinger” from the Fillmore, 1997? A disquieting “Wildflowers” from Toronto, 1995? A crowd-pleasing “Free Fallin’” at a 2005 show in Irvine, California? Cast no doubts — it’s just all so good.

Watching Peter Bogdanovich’s Runnin’ Down A Dream, the nearly four-hour documentary about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, only gives you part of the plot. The Live Anthology offers another angle. As a whole, there are some items you may pick up on. Curiously, Petty didn’t include any live tracks from the 70s (at least on the basic four-CD version). Everything here is from 1980 through 2007, recorded at gigs predominantly in California (Forum. Irvine Meadows, Fillmore, Greek Theatre, Olympic Auditorium). Stops in London, Toronto, Portland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, plus special appearances at Bonnaroo and the American Museum of Natural History — they all made the cut. One can only imagine what else is in the vaults.

As is customary these days, The Live Anthology box set is available in several different configurations. You can pick up the four-CD, 48-track version and pretty much get your fill. A seven vinyl LP set reaches further back to 1978, and includes three additional tracks plus a deluxe book with extensive liner notes. If you’re a longtime resident of Petty town, there’s the ultimate collector's set with a fifth CD, two DVDs (400 Days, a previously unreleased documentary made during the 1995 Wildflowers tour, and a concert from Snata Monica on New Years Eve 1978), a remastered 1976 Official Live 'Leg bootleg album on vinyl, the deluxe book, posters, vintage backstage passes, and all 62 tracks from the five CDs on a single Blu-ray disc, available in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound. It’s enough to make your head spin. All you can do is keep an eye out for what happens next. In other words, when it comes to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, expect the unexpected.

~ Shawn Perry

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