Review: Tom Petty / Stevie Nicks @ BST Hyde Park 2017

The Heartbreakers took a well-earned break from their 40th Anniversary tour of the US to… play another show in Europe. Their only non-US show was last night in Hyde Park. He invited an amazing group of guests that included Stevie Nicks and The Lumineers, complete with double bass.

It was a well-organised, seriously good performance from all the bands. You would expect no less: British logistics combined with American stalwart bands that have played together for 40 years and up. This was a show for the masses, with plenty for the true fans as well. You expect this from big-dollar festivals.

Stevie and Tom picked from right across their huge catalogues: old hits, newish songs, hidden gems. Tom picked a couple from his debut album. Stevie did one from Buckingham Nicks called Crying In The Night. They sang Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around together, of course.

I hadn’t seen Stevie since 2003, in Manchester, just months after seeing Fleetwood Mac again in Boston that year. I’m certain she hasn’t aged a day. Tom, on the other hand… Tom… caused some concern. Last seen in the incredible documentary by Peter Bogdanovich, he looked a little – different. I can find no rumours of illness. It could be jetlag. It could be alcohol. It could also be Parkinson’s. If it is, it’s early. But he just didn’t seem totally right.

Whatever else was going on, it didn’t affect the music. All the best hits were taken at full volume. He worked the crowd, there was a good atmosphere on stage and off. But I will wonder for a while.

There were a few treats for the casual fan. Did you know that drummer Steve Ferrone is from Brighton originally? He still looks fantastic and has weathered the storms better than anyone in the Heartbreakers. But look, who is this? The backing singers looked new.

It’s the Webb Sisters of England, no less. Rocking it up with the Stephen King of American popular rock. Beautiful voices, they added a much-needed glamour to the occasion.

On Stevie’s side, we were enormously pleased to see dear Waddy Wachtel take the stage. There were only two people within earshot who realised the significance of the words “Waddy Vocal” during the sound check. We had a guitar God among us. But did you know he was around for Buckingham Nicks, as long ago as 1970? Known to me and all Warren Zevon fans as the mastermind behind Werewolves of London, it would have been a nice touch. He appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s breakthrough “White” album too.

On that stage, Sharon Celani stood out with her typical serene beauty as someone who has weathered the storms. She has stood next to Stevie Nicks for close on forty years. They met in 1978 on an island important in Mac folk legend: Maui. And she must have provided stability through the tricky years. She is surely as important as Waddy himself in the Nicks band vibe.

Well, so much for the show. It was a great one. Tom and Stevie have deep connections in England, for all kinds of reasons. And they enjoy performing so much that it should have entertained absolutely everyone, including the glum-looking residents of nearby Park Lane.

One final word about festivals. Increasingly commercial and corporate, they are becoming like the kind of filtered class battlefield perpetrated by our airlines. You have at least four levels of segregation: the masses, gold, diamond and then some kind of “pleasure garden” that was seated and covered. I can tell you, just as with airlines, the atmosphere and enjoyment decrease as the ticket price climbs. Don’t fall for their silly wrist bands and secret entrances. The basic ticket was bloody expensive enough. Spend the rest on food and drink; it will be better value. Which is to say, bloody terrible value.

This first appeared in The Z Review in New York, just weeks before Tom Petty died of an opioid overdose. It was Tom’s final show in Europe and the final time he saw Stevie Nicks.

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