EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — We are only a few months away from the 10 year anniversary of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers final performance in Evansville. Concert-goers may not have realized it at the time, but that night proved to be a historic one before Petty’s untimely death four years later.
It was May 16, 2013. Nearly two decades had passed since the Heartbreakers played their first concert in Evansville at Robert’s Stadium. Fans packed the Ford Center for what would end up being Tom Petty’s final performance in the local Tri-State.
After a short opening performance from The Smithereens, Tom Petty and his bandmates walked onstage, ready to deliver a memorable performance on the band’s first show of the tour.
The Heartbreakers brought back an oldie right off the bat, opening their set with a cover of the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star“. This was the first time the band had played it since 1997, as they had brought it back off-and-on since the early 80’s.
Another rarity followed next — “Love Is a Long Road”. The B-Side single from Petty’s solo debut hadn’t been performed since 2003 and ended up becoming a set staple for the remainder of the 2013 tour.
Crowd-pleasers and radio hits came back-to-back soon-after, with passionate performances of “I Won’t Back Down”, “Here Comes My Girl“, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, and of course — “Free Fallin'”.
Dipping back into their catalogue of rarities, Petty strummed along to “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” for the first time in ten years followed by a rare performance of the Willie Dixon song, “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” To the astonishment of many, the band then played a never before heard cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”, famously of which Petty helped write with Bob Dylan in 1988.
Before wrapping up their 18-song main set, the Heartbreakers ran back through recognizable fan favorites such as “Learning to Fly”, “Refugee” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream“.
Although the show was already packed with uncommon gems and B-Sides, the band brought back easily the rarest song of the night. “Louisiana Rain,” the final track off Damn the Torpedoes hadn’t been played by the band since 1989, and would never be played again after that night in Evansville.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers capped off their performance with a simple and effective two-song encore. The band busted out “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “American Girl”, which would go on to be the most performed song in the band’s history.
Thousands of people left the Ford Center that night, not realizing Petty and his bandmates would never return to Evansville. The band would go on to play two more shows in the Hoosier State, finishing off a historic career that lasted many decades.
All song statistics courtesy of setlist.fm.