Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Hit Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena

Tom Petty during the Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker set on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Classic rock icons Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers returned to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night.

The night began with opening act and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Winwood. Winwood, known for his work in The Spencer Davis Group and the solo hit “Higher Love,” and his band delivered a well-rounded set complete with melodic saxophone solos, guitars that would fit perfectly on a Santana album and a voice that doesn’t show it’s age in the slightest.

Despite the excellent execution, the opening set didn’t seem to engage the portion of the audience that was unfamiliar with Winwood’s work.

Even “Higher Love,” a track that screams for a sing-along, didn’t invoke much of a response from the crowd. However, even with the crowd’s seeming disinterest in the performance, Winwood received a standing ovation from a majority of those in attendance.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers wasted no time delivering their brand of American hard rock to their fans. Opening with a cover of The Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and following with 1993’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane” and “American Dream Plan B” from this year’s Hypnotic Eye, the band set the tone for the night— a mix of hits and bluesy rock  cuts from The Heartbreakers’ catalog.

The band’s set focused primarily focused on material taken from Petty’s 1989 solo album, Full Moon Fever, and onward. Heavier tracks like “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and new material from the aforementioned Hypnotic Eye, were woven throughout the setlist between simpler tracks such as “Free Fallin'” and “Into the Great Wide Open.”

The most beautiful, crowd unifying moment of the night came towards the end of Petty’s solo hit “Learning to Fly” when Petty, grinning ear to ear, looked out over the crowd as they sang in unison the chorus of “I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings/Coming down, is the hardest thing.”

With the focus on material from the later portion of the Heartbreakers’ discography, a handful of fan favorites, such as “Breakdown,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” were left off the setlist. However, not all pre-Full Moon Fever was forgotten. “Refugee” and “American Girl” remained high points of the night, with the later being the closing song of the show.

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To contact Lifestyles editor John Connor Coulston, email

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