Words by: Dianna Hank
Brooklyn Won’t Back Down – A Tribute to Tom Petty :: 4.17.18
Brooklyn Bowl :: New York City
Brooklyn Bowl :: New York City
Often when a musician dies and tribute concerts are put on in his or her honor, those nights of music, while still wonderful, are accompanied by feelings of sadness and remorse over the loss of a great talent. Performers get choked up, tears are shed amongst audience members, and, for better or for worse, the reminder of death is present throughout the venue. However, despite the fact that Tom Petty, unfortunately, left this world a little over six months ago, that type of somber scene was not present at Tuesday’s Brooklyn Won’t Back Down – A Tribute To Tom Petty all-star concert presented by Relix at Brooklyn Bowl in New York City.
Perhaps it was the fact that some time has passed and the wounds aren’t as fresh, or that the show wasn’t put on on the anniversary of his passing. More likely, however, it was Tom Petty’s music itself and the energy and sheer reverence that the performers approached it with that kept the spirit of the evening joyous and heartwarming — a true celebration of the artist’s tremendously vast and profoundly enjoyable catalog.
Featuring members of The Terrapin Family Band and Midnight North as well as Jackie Greene, Eric Krasno, Karina Rykman, Leslie Mendelson, Scott Padden, Tash Neal and Nathan Graham, the enesmble hit the ground running, fittingly opening the show with Petty’s first Top 10 hit, “Don’t Do Me Like That.” Padden, who nailed the Petty vocals quite impressively, took lead on this first tune. Next up, Grahame Lesh and Mendelson sang “Here Comes My Girl” while Ross James contributed his first of many guitar solos of the evening. Padden then replaced Rykman on bass and James took lead vocals for “The Apartment Song.”
Vocalist Elliott Peck of Midnight North joined the stage for “Alright For Now,” adding those beautiful harmonies with Lesh that are a staple of Midnight North’s sound. More instrument changes came as Mendelson stepped off of keys and onto acoustic guitar for crowd favorite “You Don’t Know How It Feels” before James took the spotlight on “Feel A Whole Lot Better.”
The incredible versatility and level of musicianship exhibited by each participant continued to be displayed as Terrapin Family Band drummer Alex Koford stepped out from behind the kit for the first time to pick up a guitar and approach the mic. Krasno joined the stage as well (bringing the total number of guitarists on stage to a whopping six, plus bass) while Graham took over on drums. “I wrote this,” Koford joked, before breaking into the classic “Learning to Fly.”
Perhaps sensing a bit of a guitar overload, Krasno then joined Greene on keys for “House in the Woods,” smiling and laughing the whole time. Peck and Mendelson returned to the stage for a beautiful rendition of fan favorite “Free Fallin’” complete with a full audience sing-along. Finally, Greene stepped out from behind the keyboards to pick up a guitar while Padden took over on keys. Greene and Krasno then traded solos on a ripping version of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” to end the set.
After a short setbreak, the musicians returned to the stage with Mendelson on acoustic guitar and vocals for the delicate second set opening “Angel Dream (No. 2).” Krasno stepped up to the mic to lead the band on “Won’t Back Down” before Greene donned a harmonica and guitar for “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” sharing solo duties with Lesh and Krasno. Mendelson joined Padden on keys while Greene, Krasno, and Lesh continued to shred together on the jammiest tune of the night — “Breakdown.”
The lesser known “Walls – Circus” came before Padden, on acoustic guitar, and Koford, on backup vocals, shared a sensitive moment (and forehead kiss) during “You Got Lucky.” Mendelson shined on “Yer So Bad” before she and Lesh sang “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty duet from Nicks’ 1981 album Bella Donna.
Most likely at a loss for words yet somehow still perfectly encapsulating what everyone seemed to be feeling at that moment, Padden exclaimed, “Tom Petty, man…” before launching into a beautifully heartfelt version of “Even The Losers.” A rocking “Refugee” preceded a more tender “Listen To Her Heart” before Neal, The London Souls’ guitarist and vocalist, joined the stage for a fiery set-closing “You Wreck Me.”
After a brief departure from the stage, the collective returned to deliver the feel-good hit everyone had been waiting for — “American Girl.” With Rykman holding it down on bass and the stage full of smiling, happy faces, the energy throughout the venue was electric, as the crowd danced and sang along, lovingly celebrating the legacy of a legend gone too soon.