"I don’t have to be anywhere for hours," Tom Petty told the crowd Sunday night for his Bonnaroo 2013 closing set.
His 19-song, two-and-a-half hour set with the Heartbreakers may not have beat out Paul McCartney's Friday night marathon for length, but the Hall of Famer seemingly picked his setlist with maximum sing-along ability in mind.
After opening with a cover of the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" and 1989's "Love Is a Long Road," Petty suggested to the crowd, "Let’s do one we can all sing right here." As the familiar riff to "Free Fallin'" began, the audience, still soaked from a Sunday night downpour that's as much Bonnaroo tradition as jam bands or camping, sang the hook en masse.
Unlike recent shows, Petty wisely didn't go for the "deep cut" set, opting to perform his greatest hits. "Don't Come Around Here No More." "Refugee." "Yer So Bad." Petty's catalog is like going through 30 years of the best Americana, roots and classic rock (with a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" thrown in).
Early in his set, Petty delivered a hard-rocking, but baffling, take on the oft-covered blues classic "Baby, Please Don't Go." In the middle of the song, the band settled into a quiet groove while Petty embarked on a spoken-word account of a former lover.
"Now I know this isn't the politically correct thing to say, but this girl was bipolar," Petty said wryly, immediately tossing in a Seinfeldian, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." The confusing mini-tale ended with him buying her a ticket for a midnight train and watching her "little bipolar face in the window" as it disappeared into the night. Okay!
Casual fans of the Heartbreakers, who last appeared at Bonnaroo in 2006 (with Stevie Nicks!), may have been surprised by the group's jam band aesthetic. The Traveling Wilburys' "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" opened into a moody, hypnotic jam session, while "Friend of the Devil" allowed Petty and guitarist Mike Campbell to trade solos and the band to carry on the original jam band's tradition.
By the time Petty said, "We're going to leave you all where we started" before kicking in to "American Girl" off his 1977 eponymous debut album, the crowd, though weary from 96 straight hours of music, found the energy to break into one mass sing-along before heading back to the tents.
Additional reporting by Joe Lynch