Nils Lofgren and Tom Petty Newcastle City Hall 1977

Nils Lofgren and Tom Petty Newcastle City Hall 1977
nilstix77 On a few occasions I have seen the support act clearly outshine the headliner. Lynyrd Skynyrd as support act for Golden Earring is one example. This pairing, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers supporting Nils Lofgren in 1977 is another. We’d read a lot about this new upcoming band who combined classic rock with the energy of punk, the Byrds’ jangling guitars, and a cool blonde-haired guy singing. I’d seen them on TV, probably on the Old Grey Whistle Test, and was blown away by the song “American Girl”. I remember being a little confused by the name, as I had just seen Johnny Thunders and his Heartbreakers in concert! So we made sure we were in the City Hall early that night to see Petty and his band. They certainly didn’t disappoint, and gave the crowd a set which Nils found difficult to follow. This was one of the rare occasions that I have seen the hall full for the first band, and the support act having to return for an encore. I saw Petty again the following year supporting Jefferson Starship and Genesis at Knewborth, but haven’t managed to see him since. I had a ticket to see him at the Albert Hall last year but couldn’t make it on the day, which is a big regret for me. I hope Tom returns to the UK sometime soon so I can have another chance to catch him in concert. nilstompetty The tour programme proclaims “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is purely and simply the best mainstream rock debut by any American band this year…” and that Tom is a ” grey-eyed offspring of Speedy Keene and Mick Ronson” :). This album, the single “American Girl”, the tour, and their appearances on UK TV broke Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the UK, and enabled them to go on to success in their home country and across the world. The UK dates with Nils were so successful that Petty and the guys were back a few weeks later to headline their own series of dates. From the Melody Maker at the time: “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers end their breakthrough British tour with Nils Lofgren this week — but the band return for their own concert series next month. The band’s phenomenal rise to headlining status has taken just three weeks. They came to Britain at the beginning of this month to play as support band on the Lofgren tour. Petty and the Heartbreakers, however, are ending the tour as one of the most in-demand bands currently playing in this country.” Nils was promoting his new album “I Came to Dance” and played an excellent gig, but was simply outclassed by the young guys who preceded him on stage that night. “I’m not Bob Dylan, but I never miss a beat. I ain’t no philosopher, I dance in the street. I came to dance…..”. nilsprog77 The Lofgren set list at Newcastle City Hall 24th May 1977 was: Rock ‘n’ Roll Crook; Keith Don’t Go; Like Rain; Incidentally It’s Over; Goin’ Back; Code of the Road; Cry Tough; It’s Not A Crime; You’re The Weight; Moon Tears; I Don’t Want To Talk About It; Back It Up. Encores – Beggars Day; I Came To Dance.
The Tom Petty set list was: Surrender; Jaguar And Thunderbird; American Girl; Fooled Again; Breakdown; Listen To Her Heart; Strangered In The Night; I Need To Know; Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll; Dog On The Run. Encore: Route 66.
“I Need To Know” was a big favourite of mine at the time, and brings back happy memories. This was one of those gigs that still sticks in my memory and that I would love to relive if I could.
Many thanks to Mitch for the two setlists, which helped bring back some of the memories.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Terry Hackett on March 21, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    This was a fantastic night. I’d gone to see support act Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who were excellent, and worth the price of admission alone. I knew nothing about headliner Nils Lofgren but was stunned by an amazing performance which included him playing the guitar while doing a somersault from a mini-trampoline at the side of the stage. I went straight out the next day and bought the ‘I Came to Dance’ album.


  2. Posted by Aggi on December 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Really pleased to find this – Just been asked what was the best support act I had ever seen and was wondering if I had misremembered that Tom Petty had supported Nils Lofgren. I would have been at Edinburgh and agree that TP blew Nils away!


  3. Posted by Timothy Johnson on October 2, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    RIP Tom Petty- what a tragedy to leave so soon. Thanks for those great memories from that City Hall gig.


  4. Didn’t know TP ever came to the City Hall! Saw him and the Heartbreakers just the once, at the Royal Albert Hall in 2012 and he exceeded my expectations, plus Steve Winwood came on and did a Blind Faith number (Can’t Find My Way Home I think) plus Gimme Some Lovin’! Great night. So glad I made the effort, given his tragic passing. Desperately sad watching all these great people die but hey that’s life I guess…


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 1, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      Hi Craig

      Yes I am a big Tom Petty fan. I had tickets for the Albert Hall concert but my late wife had her 1st chemo session that day so unfortunately I couldn’t make it. So sad how all our heroes are passing cheers Peter


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