On a perfect summer day, The British Summer time festival at Hyde Park came to a close with two legendary American song writers who still have an unmatched passion for their craft.
Still radiating a special charm and a strong voice at 69 , Stevie Nicks cuts a slightly sombre figure dressed all in black for “Gold and Braid” before donning a white fur coat for a spellbinding “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)”.
All the Fleetwood Mac hits like “Gypsy”, “Dreams” and “Rhiannon” were present and accounted for, but it was when Stevie dug deep into her back catalogue that the truly special moments happened.
Introducing the Buckingham-Nicks song “Crying In The Night” into the tour set for the first time in 44 years was a highlight - a simply yet brightly upbeat song that was a joy to hear. Followed by the rarely played title track “Bella Donna” made you appreciate the depth of her solo work over the years.
Even within her impressive backing band, a very special mention must go to long-time guitarist Waddy Wachtel. Still cutting an unbelievably lean figure at 70, the legendary side-man delivers cutting riffs and licks while keeping the musical and vocal melody. One of the great underrated guitarists of his generation.
With a blistering extended intro, “Edge Of Seventeen” sends the crowd wild before the stage is emptied of all but Stevie and Waddy for a sadly beautiful, acoustic “Landslide” finishes her set.
After several years away and as part of their 40th anniversary tour, Tom Petty and his legendary Heartbreakers took the stage for one of the most anticipated concerts of the year. They proceeded to deliver over 2 hours of the most impressive and joyous musicianship that this writer has ever witnessed.
Going back to the very 1st track from their 1st album, the set starts with “Rockin’ Around (With You)” before the opening riff of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” begins the first of many mass sing-alongs. “You Don’t Know How it Feels” is thankfully back in the set while “Forgotten Man” represents Tom Petty’s most recent album “Hypnotic Eye”.
Tom Petty picks up an acoustic guitar and performs a stunning, stripped down “I Won’t Back Down” before another mass sing-along to “Free Fallin’ “. With his voice in perfect condition and a platinum coated song-book it would be hard to go wrong, but the sheer joy and love for performing that Tom and the Heartbreakers give off is infectious and helps to transform the gig into something truly special. This feeling is only added to when “Honorary Heartbreaker” Stevie Nicks joins Tom Petty for “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”.
After 40 years together, The Heartbreakers stand firmly in musical territory that few other bands can even dream of occupying - their chemistry is so rich and well practiced that it is like watching them use telepathy. The extended, 10 mins plus jam/ guitar weaving of Mike Campbell and Tom Petty during “Its Good To Be King” left me speechless.
Only The E Street band and possibly The Foo Fighters can come close to that chemistry and live flexibility.
Turning in down for the simply beautiful songwriting of “Wildflowers” before he leads all of Hyde Park singing “Learning to Fly”, Tom has us eating out of his hand. “We’re going to turn the amps up loud for this one”, he announces before “I Should Have Known it”. Followed by “Refugee” there is almost no way to take the audience higher. Still, The Heartbreakers find a way and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”.
The band take a breather while the crowd around me wonder in disbelief that this concert is really going on while also wondering what else they could have left to play!
The Sun sets and the band return for an encore of “You Wreck Me” before “American Girl” finally ends the evening. As Tom and The Heartbreakers take a triumphant, myself and several new friends hug each-other knowing that we have seen one of the greatest Rock and Roll performances of this or any year.
Happy 40th anniversary to the man and his band - they are still unmatched and I suspect they will remain that way for a good while longer.