From in regards to the mid-Nineteen Eighties onwards, Tom Petty’s output was outlined by a steadily infuriating contradiction. Whereas Petty and his Heartbreakers have been (clearly) as wonderful and fierce a rock’n’roll band as had ever been assembled, Petty appeared peculiarly insistent on making data from which you wouldn’t essentially comprehend it. There was not often a lot fallacious with the songs, however the manufacturing grew more and more shiny and decreasingly gritty. The Heartbreakers of their first three albums – that pugnacious, ferocious and superb hybrid of the swaggering Southern swamp-boogie of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the fidgety, skittish, skinny-tied new wave of the Sights – obtained more durable and more durable to listen to.
However as this Brobdingnagian boxset splendidly demonstrates, they by no means actually went away. In 1997, between January 10 and February 7, Petty and the Heartbreakers performed 20 reveals at San Francisco’s Fillmore, legendary tabernacle of Nineteen Sixties rock. The vanity was that they’d be a home band for a month, dishing up hits, favourites and requests, possibly wheeling in a couple of friends (a big distinction between the Heartbreakers and the band soundtracking the buffet on the Ramada in Mudville is that Petty was capable of name Roger McGuinn and John Lee Hooker). All this they did, and clearly had a complete blast within the course of – on the finish of the run, Petty described it in an interview as “possibly the very best time of our lives, actually”. However whether or not intentionally or not, Petty and the Heartbreakers additionally commandeered the Fillmore as a type of lecture corridor during which they delivered an expansive lesson within the historical past of rock’n’roll and their very own, not inconsequential place in it.
There was, clearly, no scarcity of fabric from which a monument similar to this boxset may very well be assembled – of which various quantities can be found in proportion to outlay. There are 33 songs on the 2CD/3LP version, 58 on the 4CD/6LP variant. Most tracks in each packages are cowl variations, visiting all factors JJ Cale to The Rolling Stones, Little Richard to Bob Dylan, The Kinks to Booker T & The MGs, Bo Diddley to the Grateful Dead, The Zombies to The Kingsmen, The Stanley Brothers to The Byrds. There’s even a Bondtheme (“Goldfinger”, rendered as a Shadows-style surf-rock instrumental).
The Heartbreakers have been clearly decided to lean all the best way into the concept of enterprise a residency – thanks for popping out, we’re right here all month, strive the veal, etcetera. The covers are served up with an entire absence of the self-conscious fussiness that was considerably infesting Petty’s personal albums by this level. The rowdier tunes, starting with the boxset’s opening monitor, Chuck Berry’s “Round And Round”, radiate the giddy pleasure of a storage band plugging in what they obtained for Christmas (it’s probably much more primal than that: Petty introduces “You Are My Sunshine”, co-written by former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis in 1940, as “a tune I discovered at camp”).
The slower and extra soulful numbers, together with a show-stopping tackle Invoice Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”, remind of the sensitivity that Petty and the Heartbreakers at their finest have been at all times capable of deliver to bear upon their very own extra downbeat materials. The purpose is strengthened, and a debt is paid, by working straight out of “Ain’t No Sunshine” into a beautiful efficiency of an prolonged “It’s Good To Be King” which doesn’t overstay its welcome even at close to sufficient to 12 minutes.
And right here is arguably probably the most compelling purpose for the acquisition of this artefact: the gleeful, irreverent liberties taken with Petty’s personal materials. “I Gained’t Again Down” is stripped down nearly all the best way to its vocal harmonies, and sounds surprisingly extra defiant for it. The equally acoustic-led “Even The Losers” and “American Lady” reveal the soul beneath the snarl of the originals. Reside At The Fillmore 1997 stands as each an excellent doc of a terrific rock’n’roll band at full throttle – and pretty much as good a reside album as has been made by anyone.