There are few places in North America that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers haven't played in their career, but Friday's show marked a first for the band as they made their debut in Saskatoon.
Named for the sweet, violet-colored berries that grow in the area, Saskatoon is the largest city in Canada's Saskatchewan province. Since opening in 1988, Credit Union Centre has been home to the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League while playing host to a variety of sporting and concert events, including Canadian wrestling legend Bret Hart's defeat of The Nature Boy Ric Flair in 1992 to capture his first WWF Heavyweight Championship.
Friday's show featured a pair of heavyweights with decades of original hits, but it was their choices of other artists' music to cover that stood out and provided insight into their own record collections. One of rock's great interpreters, Joe Cocker started things off with "Feelin' Alright," a song written by Dave Mason for Traffic's eponymous 1968 album, but it was his electrifying take on "The Letter," a song written by Wayne Carson Thompson but popularized by Alex Chilton and the Box Tops in 1967, that sent 10,000-plus at the Credit Union Centre into a frenzy.
Tom and The Heartbreakers' set also featured some incredible covers. Tom grabbed the maracas midset as the band launched into a grizzly take on Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well," the double-sided single released in November 1969 that marked the end of Peter Green's tenure in the band. The opening track off Them's 1965 debut The Angry Young Them, "Mystic Eyes" is a raucous blues send-up that was reportedly inspired when Van Morrison watched children playing among the tombstones of an ancient cemetery in Nottingham. Led by Scott Thurston's gritty harmonica, Mike Campbell's chugging guitar riff and a beautiful piano breakdown from Benmont Tench , Tom and the band annihilated "Mystic Eyes" in Saskatoon, leaving a crowd of smiling faces in their wake.
Check back for a report from Winnipeg and the Heartbreakers' return to the States next week with shows in St. Paul, Omaha and Milwaukee!