Petty Theft- San Fransisco Tribute to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers January 15, 2022 OP Rockwell
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe
I only had the opportunity to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers live one time. It was on the 40th Anniversary tour. A tour that would turn out to be Petty’s last. I was fortunate to see the tour at the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. When Tom Petty died I was grateful to have seen him but like so many, I was sad that we would no longer get to see him perform his amazing songs again.
When I saw some years back that Petty Theft was coming to Utah, I was intrigued but wary of another band playing Petty’s music. Sometimes I can get a little snobby with music and I imagine I thought that Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers music was untouchable and should never be performed by a tribute band. I’ve learned that whenever I get snobby my narrow-minded view is usually wrong. When I saw that Petty Theft would not only be coming back to Utah but that they would be playing two dates (one in Salt Lake and one in Park City), I realized I must be missing something. I decided I needed to see these guys for myself.
I’ve been to The State Room in Salt Lake City many times. I love going there. I, however, had never been to O.P. Rockwell on historic Main Street in Park City. So up to Park City I went. The O.P. Rockwell Cocktail Lounge & Music Hall is an awesome venue. There’s an open floor near the stage for people who want to dance and get into the show. There are also reservable tabletops and blocked-off areas for those who want to hang out and listen to the music. As I was putting on my wristband, the front desk let me know that the show was a sell-out. Another strong indicator that this was going to be a good night.
The band walked out to a warm reception and opened the show with a huge favorite “Learning to Fly”. The tone was set and as I looked around O.P. Rockwell I could see more and more people moving from the bar area to the open floor near the stage. Don’t get me wrong, there was an eager crowd already up there staking their claim to their spot near the stage. But as the music started and as Petty Theft moved from song to song, that floor ended up being totally packed.
One of the first things I noticed was Petty Theft wasn’t trying to look or impersonate Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. I’m sure most of us have seen tribute bands that look and act exactly like the band they’re tributing. It’s impressive when it’s done well, but personally, I don’t need it. I just want to hear the music I like from that band and hear it done well. That is exactly what I got from Petty Theft. When chatting with bassist, Django Bayless, he told me in regards to not dressing up like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, “ it would be very un-Tom Petty to dress up like Tom Petty”. And he’s right. Tom Petty would have hated that.
Dan Durkin wasn’t trying to be Tom Petty. He’s got a voice and style all his own. But that’s just it with these guys. They’re not trying to make the songs sound different or their own. These iconic songs sound like you hope to hear them. Petty Theft just isn’t trying hard to convince you that they’re more than they are. They’re Tom Petty fans, just like those in the sold-out crowd. They’re giving us the songs we love and cherish.
Petty Theft is an extremely talented band. It’s easy to get lost in just hearing the music you like. But these guys are good. Michael Papenburg and Monroe Grisman seemed to unintentionally one-up each other as the night went along. They played memorable guitar riffs and solos to perfection. There wasn’t one time where I worried or noticed that they couldn’t play something.
The rhythm section of Django Bayless and Adam “Bagel” Berkowitz kept things steady. Sure, the music of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers is good ol’ Rock n Roll. But there are intricacies that make these songs the masterpieces they are. Bayless and Berkowitz (sounds like a law firm!) kept the band true to these beats and intricacies. Somewhat tucked away from view (So tucked I couldn’t get a photo of him!) was Steven Seydler on keys. I sometimes forget just how many Petty songs feature the keys. Seydler would have made Benmont Tench proud.
In front of the actual stage, there was a landing or an extension of the stage. I’m not sure why it’s there. Maybe to keep things COVID friendly and give some distance between the band and the crowd. Who knows. But there was a moment during the show where a woman who was let’s say, “feelin’ good” decided that the stage extension was meant for her. Lead singer Dan Durkin was playing his guitar on that extension and things could have gotten awkward fast. Especially because this woman didn’t seem to have any intention of heading back to the crowd.
This really puts a band in a bad spot because no matter how nice they’re being, they’re essentially telling someone to mellow out, which they’re not inclined to want to do. I thought Durkin handled it perfectly and the woman stepped down and no one else tried to step onto this stage extension throughout the night. The show moved on without a hitch. I was really impressed with how well Durkin handled what could have been a weird situation. Some quick advice, people who think it’s ok to just mosey up on stage, it’s not. Don’t make it awkward.
The show was split into two sets. Some highlights from the first set were “Handle With Care” a Traveling Wilburys tune and “You Got Lucky” one of my favorite and in my opinion underrated Petty hits. The crowd seemed like they were at their peak. Everyone was singing along and cheering when they’d hear song after song. The first set closed with classic Petty sing a longs, “You Don’t Know How it Feels, and “Mary Janes Last Dance”.
I honestly didn’t think we had anywhere to go energy-wise. The first set was so fun and everyone was so into it, I thought we’d just continue on at that level. But apparently, there was a level above that of the first set. Petty Theft came back, played a couple of lesser-known, but still amazing songs, “Woman in Love” and “Drivin’ Down to Georgia”. This may have been intentional. It gave people a chance to finish their drinks and head back to the stage area. I don’t know how but it seemed like there were double the amount of people from the first set. Maybe people couldn’t stay in their booths or at their tables any longer. They had to be where the action was.
Petty Theft then hammered through an amazing second set. Each song building on the next. “You Wreck Me” into “Running Down a Dream” into “Breakdown” into “Here Comes My Girl”. Then a moment I knew was going to be amazing. They could have done a terrible job and people would have gone nuts. “Free Fallin'”. O.P. Rockwell was the perfect setting for a sing-along song like that. It was just as I hoped it would be. Petty Theft didn’t play it terribly, they, of course, sounded great. The crowd sang so loud that I couldn’t hear the vocals coming out of the PA. So fun.
“Free Fallin'” was followed by “I Won’t Back Down”. Quite possibly my favorite Tom Petty song. Ask me tomorrow and it will probably be a different song, but on this night, I was most excited to hear this song. again, the band was excellent and I loved singing the chorus with everyone there. As the night went along strangers became friends. Young and old alike were singing, clapping, and dancing to the music.
Shows like this are so great because they’re a huge reminder of just how amazing Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers are/ were. After all that they still had “American Girl” and “Refugee” in their back pocket. Needless to say, the night didn’t slow down quite yet. The crowd did not want the night to end. After each encore song was performed, the chant of “One More Song!” would ring throughout the club.
The night ultimately came to an end with “Don’t Come Around Here No More”. A song that you’ll notice was not on the setlist. They either decided last minute to close with that song, or they were being begged to keep performing to the point of actually giving us, “One more song”. They could have played another hour and the crowd would have loved it.
It’s hard to believe we won’t get to see Tom Petty live ever again. But his songs live on and they’re living well with Petty Theft. I think the band has found out that Utah is a “must stop” on any tour they schedule. Clearly, Utah is hoping to have them back soon.
For Petty Theft’s official setlist from O.P. Rockwell click here!
For booking, tour, and band information go to pettytheftrocks.com
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