One of the few joys in life is seeing one of your favourite songs be performed live with a full band. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the opportunity to see all your most cherished artists and their finest tracks. However, if you’re a little late to the party, at least there is YouTube to help you along the way. Thankfully, it provided us with this wondrous performance of ‘A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)’ by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
It’s one of Petty’s finest compositions. Written alongside Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, the track is a bombastic blend of sounds, intertwining gentle melancholy verses, flecked with the R&B sound Petty found so easy to achieve, with a powerful hard rock chorus that confirms, no matter the musical journey you’re looking for, Tom Petty has always been the best tour guide.
The song is taken from one of Petty’s finest albums too, Hard Promises. The eighties provided a set of stadiums and arenas for Tom Petty to fill as he took on the role of (slightly) elder statesman of rock. While Bob Dylan et al tried to chase commercial success with a series of the middle of the road releases, Petty was able to achieve it with some of his most searing work. Hard Promises was the album that certified Petty as a headline act across the entire globe.
The album is perfectly balanced too. While there are certainly some big hitters on this LP, ‘A Woman In Love’ is a particular piece of brilliance; the album is counterweighted by the exuberance of Petty’s growing musicianship. To make it even sweeter, rumours are that Petty refused to charge his fans an extra dollar on this album as requested by his label and even left a message to his hero John Lennon on the LP.
The track is a shining example of how neatly Petty was finding his groove on the record. It featured some landmark performances, including the bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, who has worked with some of the finest rock acts on the planet and delivers a particular brilliant showing on ‘A Woman In Love’. Speaking with Songfacts, Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench said: “I like the way the track breathes. There is a lot of space; there are a lot of places where there’s only drums, bass and one guitar playing with a vocal. I like the air in that song. I like the way that the beat picks up a little and then drops down in tempo and picks up for the chorus and then drops back down for the verses. I really like that. I thought it was a brilliant song.”
All of these facets of Petty’s esteem grew when given a stage to perform on. It was clear, whenever the spotlight hit Petty, that he was able to not only kick himself into gear and provide a top-quality show but also allow the musicians around him to soar too, provided ample safe space for them to land and take flight whenever the song required.
Watch one of those moments below as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers give a wondrous performance of ‘A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)’.