Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers made their triumphant return to Europe Thursday night, rocking a sold-out show at Dublin's O2 Arena to one of the best crowds of the 2012 Summer Tour so far.
Fans packed the O2 early, braving stereotypical Irish weather - drizzling rain and blustery winds - for Jonathan Wilson, the North Carolina-born, California-based singer/songwriter who's opening the band's European shows.
The O2 was buzzing with anticipation following the end of Wilson's opening set, fans cramming up to the front rail in hopes of getting a glimpse of Tom and the band. The crew bounced around the stage, adjusting microphones here and tuning guitars there.
As the clock crept closer to 9 pm, the band began to gather in the hallway outside their dressing room, smiling and nodding to each other as they got ready to take the stage.
Tonight's moment was just before "Free Fallin', right after Tom introduced the band. As Mike Campbell walked to centerstage with his Rickenbacker strung around his neck, ready to launch into the song's iconic riff, Tom mentioned that he'd run into some Spanish fans that day as he walked around Dublin. Suddenly, a small group of fans - presumably the Spaniards he met earlier that day - on the back of floor started the "Ole, ole, ole, ole! Ole! Ole!" chant heard at European soccer games. Instantly, the entire arena picked up the chant, and the O2 was transformed into a soccer stadium.
"It was funny," Steve Ferrone, the band's resident Englishman, said after the show. "I'm not sure Tom and Mike knew what was going on, so I leaned down over my kit and yelled, 'It's a good thing! That means they like it!"
It was a special, special night, one not soon forgotten by the band, crew or the fans in attendance. After a tremendous "Mary Jane's Last Dance/American Girl" encore, Tom stepped to the mike and said, "Dublin, thank you so much for this special night. Let's not make it 20 years until the next time, ok?"
The Irish crowd roared in response, clapping and cheering as Tom and the guys waved goodnight and exited the stage. If these Heartbreaker fans have anything to say about, Tom and the band will be back very, very soon.
Listen to Her Heart
You Wreck Me
I Won't Back Down
Here Comes My Girl
Handle with Care
It's Good To Be King
Something Good Coming
Learning to Fly
Yer So Bad
I Shoulda Known It
Runnin' Down A Dream