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Monday, May 1, 2017

Tom Petty, Elle King and The Mavericks at Jazz Fest

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 3:07 PM

click to enlarge The Mavericks performed Sunday at Jazz Fest.
  • The Mavericks performed Sunday at Jazz Fest.

Not all the irregularities in Jazz Fest’s Sunday schedule were deficits. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played until 7:15 p.m., and with the crowd clamoring for more, the band returned to the Acura Stage for an encore, performing “American Girl.”

Earlier in the day, before Jazz Fest announced its delayed opening, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers could be heard doing a sound check, teasing fans as they waited outside the grounds. When Petty came out on stage for the set, he looked as groovy as ever, with a patterned head scarf and vest. Petty promised the audience “no artificial sweetener rock and roll” before launching into a two-hours-plus performance. Playing Jazz Fest on its 40th anniversary tour, the band kicked off with the first song on its first album, “Rocking Around with You,” a tune Petty co-wrote with guitarist Mike Campbell in 1976. For four decades, the band has sustained all of rock stardom’s success, excess and ego to stay in tact while releasing a chain of hits.

Two back-up singers, sisters Charley and Hattie Webb (recruited after recent tours with the late Leonard Cohen), carried vocal harmonies to another level on “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” with its cutting lyrics — “Tired of screwing up / Tired of going down / Tired of myself / Tired of this town” — which many guessed was about weed before Petty’s biography revealed that he struggled with heroin throughout the 1990s. Campbell applied his guitar wizardry to a Fender Stratocaster but switched to a baby blue Gibson when he shredded the slow-blues burn of “Good Enough” — with its “barefoot chewing on sugar cane” line perfect for the moment.

The kiss-off love song theme that marks much of Petty’s music showed up in “You Got Lucky” and “You’re So Bad,” though perhaps the overarching statement with this band’s stellar showcase — founding drummer Steve Ferrone was on point all day, perfectly orchestrating the rolls to close out “Free Falling” — seemed to be one of a dreamer’s life as mission accomplished.

At 7 p.m., Petty proclaimed, “We’re going to turn the amplifiers up now” and the band tore through “Refugee” and “Running Down a Dream” before returning for the encore.

Earlier in the day, unabashed enchantress Elle King performed at the Gentilly Stage. The Los Angeles-based rocker/actress (and daughter of Rob Schneider) returned for her second consecutive Jazz Fest and treated fans to gems off her stellar 2015 album, Love Stuff. She said “this song explains a lot” as she introduced “Under the Influence,” with its theme “your kiss is my addiction.” She switched to acoustic guitar and joked that she’s “faking it still” — explaining how writing a song based on an instrument proves she knows how to play it. Then she launched into the bluesy “Ain’t Gonna Drown,” a tune spun into a brassy, up-tempo funk swing by her ace backing band.

Reunited Grammy winners The Mavericks plied its earnest blend of soulful country at Fais Do-Do stage, with frontman Raul Malo in a white Stetson hat crooning love ballads with the organic grace of Lyle Lovett. The songs were propelled by the stirring saxophone of Max Abrams and the organ swells of Jerry Dale McFadden.

Saxophonist Maceo Parker filled in for the announced cancellation of George Benson in the Jazz Tent. James Brown’s longtime horn-section leader recruited the relentless talent of drummer Nikki Glaspie, who performed with Dumpstaphunk for a few years before forming Nth Power and becoming an in-demand free agent.

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