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Tom Petty Rocks Tiny California Club to Benefit Public Radio

Tom Petty
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers busted out both the big guns and some deep cuts for the lucky 500 fans who managed to score a ticket to an intimate club gig they performed Saturday in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.

According to Rolling Stone, the show was a benefit concert for KCSN-FM, a tiny college radio station on the outer edges of suburban Los Angeles that’s looking to boost its signal strength.

“Nothing scares corporate radio more than public radio,” Tom Petty told the crowd from the stage, touching on the theme of the night. “We think people can understand a lot of different kinds of music.” He also pointed out that his success is in part because “people took a chance on [his] band” back in the day and that if the band was staring out how, it would face a different reception. “Tell you what — we would not win ‘American Idol,’” he said.

The 20-song set list included hits ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and ‘Running Down a Dream,’ rarities ‘Lover’s Touch’ and ‘Have Love, Will Travel’ (which they hadn’t performed in a decade) an acoustic ‘Angel Dream’ and covers of Booker T. and the MGs’ ‘Green Onions’ and blues legend Muddy Waters’ ‘Champagne and Reefer.’ “We were coming to this gig and said, ‘Let’s play a bunch of s— we don’t know,’” Petty said. “It’s turned out pretty good.”

You’d think pulling out those oldies would’ve required plenty of extra rehearsals, and you’d be flat out wrong. “We weren’t all in the same country yesterday, but we practiced backstage,” Petty said. And despite the intimate setting, he insisted that he treated the show same as he would if they had been rocking Madison Square Garden. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 500 or 500,000,” he joked, “it scares me to death.”

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