Expanded from its origins as a radio broadcast, Live at the Fillmore captures Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in transition, retreating from large arenas, music videos, and record-making in favor of a 20-show run at the legendary San Francisco venue.
That residency in January and early February of 1997 resulted in a deep, often-spontaneous exploration of the band’s musical roots, with covers comprising a majority of the 58 cuts, and underscoring the shows’ freewheeling spirit. As author Joel Selvin writes in his liner notes, “Setlists were written every night and routinely ignored.”
In addition to tackling songs by everyone from Chuck Berry to the Zombies – and backing guests John Lee Hooker and Roger McGuinn – guitarist Mike Campbell (see interview in this issue) and Petty bring garage-band passion to their own catalog, rocking hard on an explosive “Jammin’ Me” and dueling on “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” pushing the song past 10 minutes. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Free Fallin’” also get extended workouts. Campbell, meanwhile, pays tribute to The Ventures with “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue.”
All told, it’s a unique addition to the discography – a document of a band seeking direction but joyously revisiting its musical roots in the meantime.
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.