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When news of Tom Petty’s fading heath began to spread yesterday afternoon across social media, feelings of sadness were exacerbated by the fact that thousands here in Boston just saw him perform live several weeks earlier.
As part of their 40th anniversary tour across North America, which wrapped up just last week at the Hollywood Bowl, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers played two nights at TD Garden in Boston, July 20 and 21. The pair of shows seemed to have a heightened importance to Petty, as his homepage highlighted the fact that one of the Heartbreakers’ first-ever gigs took place in December 1976, opening up for Al Kooper at Paul’s Mall, the long-gone subterranean music venue at 733 Boylston St. in Back Bay.
“This is the first song off our first album, Boston, and you were one of the first places it got played!” Petty told the crowd on July 20, before launching into “Rockin’ Around With You.”
Indeed it was. Here’s more from tompetty.com: “Their self-titled debut album had been out for about a month on Shelter Records, and deejays in Boston were among the first in the country to spin it. Depending on who you ask in the Heartbreaker camp, the Boston shows were among the first ten gigs of the band’s storied career. The band and road crew stayed just around the corner from the club at the Lenox Hotel, the same hotel that Red Auerbach lived in while he coached the Boston Celtics. After sound check the first night, keyboardist Benmont Tench snuck back onstage to check out the drawbar settings on Kooper’s Hammond organ. These were the early days, and the road was ahead of them.”
Check out the set lists from both shows below, but first, scan through a handful of fan-filmed videos from the Garden concerts, which would sadly be the last time Petty ever performed in our city. RIP to a true American icon, and an ambassador of cool.
Featured Tom Petty screengrab via DGB519 on YouTube.