A- A+

Tom Petty Takes Des Moines, Iowa, Down Memory Lane

Des Moines Music Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

June 19, 2017

It’s really great being a music lover these days. I’ve been going to live concerts for 40-plus years now, and I’ve seen a lot of bands, both good and bad. I’m proud to say that many of my old favorites — Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce and more recently Red Hot Chili Peppers — are still putting out great music and putting on great concerts. You can add Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to that short list.

Tom and the gang came this month to Wells Fargo Arena and put on a killer show.

Wells Fargo Arena is a great venue to see a live show of this scale. The Well is very comfortable and the views are good. Also, Wooly’s and Hoyt Sherman Place are two great venues here in town. I especially recommend Hoyt Sherman, if you enjoy seeing great music in a well-maintained historic setting. Their show lineup has been amazing lately. This year I've seen Kris Kristofferson, Kansas and the Flaming Lips. All amazing. 

But let’s talk Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Tour Stop in DSM USA

This tour celebrates 40 years of Heartbreaker music, and the boys did a great job of playing a well-balanced set with selections from throughout their stellar career. Tom started the evening by telling the crowd, “We’re here for a good time. Tonight, we’re gonna pretend our entire catalog is on one giant vinyl record, and we’re gonna just drop the needle here and there throughout the evening.” Tom has become the Willie Nelson of his generation, in my opinion. Affable, everyone’s friend, warm and entertaining. The opener was the first track from his first album entitled “Rocking Around With You.” It still sounded as fresh as ever and was played with youthful exuberance. It had me dancing right out of the gate.

The following number, “Mary Jane's Last Dance,” brought a roar from the crowd, as the band started getting into the meat of the show. Hit after hit emerged from this well-seasoned music machine. What a joy to hear this band perform again live. This was my fourth time seeing them and I have to say probably the best. 

A fan treat came towards the middle. “You Got Lucky” had not been played live for a long time, but has been brought out on this tour. I loved hearing the ‘80s synth pulse with the guitar overlay. I had forgotten how cool it was.  

As a media professional, I noticed the staging and lighting. They used a series of round globes that looked like party balloons until they started to move to the music, raising up and down to create patterns and shapes above the stage. And yes, best use of lasers EVAH!

And what a cracker-jack band! One of the hottest rhythm sections in rock and roll, fronted by one of the best guitarists ever, Mike Campbell. I could listen to these guys all night. Plus, they know how to dress. They looked like extras from a Tarantino movie. Loved it. 

Much time was well spent on their two most popular albums: “Wildflowers” and “Full Moon Fever.” They gave us the previously mentioned “You Don't Know,” as well as “Good to be King,” “Crawling Back to You,” title track “Wildflowers” and first encore “You Wreck Me” from “Wildflowers,” “Free Fallin’,” “Won't Back Down,” “Yer So Bad” and “Running Down a Dream” from “Full Moon Fever.” There were many opportunities for this road-seasoned band to show off. Wow! Stellar performances. There’s nothing better than standing in a room full of fans, singing along to one of your favorite artists’ songs and feeling like we’re all connected. “Yeah I’m free! Free Faaaaaalllliing!”

The main set ended with “Running Down a Dream,” a fan fave that had everyone on their feet and rocking. As the band left the stage, the crowd brought out their cell phones to shine a light, the modern version of the cigarette lighters we used to use back in the day. The lights danced light fireflies in the dark. Fantastic! This led into the first encore, “You Wreck Me.” 

Here's a link to some footage I shot with my cell phone of that moment. Sorry for the shaky middle part. I was dancing. 

This led directly into the show closer, the obligatory “American Girl.” Again, another great crowd sing-a-long that left us all happy and satisfied. 

Thanks, Tom and the band for a wonderful evening at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Here’s to 40 more years!

Looking for more live music options and things to do? Visit The Partnership’s Attractions and Events page.

Set List (June 5, 2017  |  Des Moines, Iowa)

  • Rockin' Around (With You)
  • Mary Jane's Last Dance
  • You Don't Know How It Feels
  • Forgotten Man
  • You Got Lucky
  • I Won't Back Down
  • Free Fallin'
  • Walls
  • Don't Come Around Here No More
  • It's Good to Be King
  • Crawling Back to You
  • Wildflowers
  • Learning to Fly
  • Yer So Bad
  • I Should Have Known It
  • Refugee
  • Runnin' Down a Dream
  • You Wreck Me
  • American Girl
Thomas Sawyer

Tom Sawyer has been creating award-winning media for over 30 years. He has written, produced, directed, shot and edited a wide variety of programs for a wide variety of clients, including most major companies in Iowa and many across the U.S. Tom is an avid home brewer, loves to ride his bike and thoroughly enjoys live music. Ask him about his record collection. Proud South Sider in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Visit his website at tsmedia.biz.