Legendary rocker plays hit-heavy set on festival's opening night

Revered US rocker Tom Petty and his band The Heartbreakers closed Friday night at Isle Of Wight Festival with a set full of classic hits at the close of a day that saw other acts paying tribute to him. Charlie Fink of Noah And The Whale asked the crowd “Is anyone else sharing my excitement at seeing Tom Petty this evening?” during their early evening set, while Elbow frontman Guy Garvey referred to Petty as a “living legend”.

Opening with 1978 single ‘Listen To Her Heart’, Petty appeared energetic and dapper in a blue suit jacket he later removed to reveal a brocade waistcoat. The rapport between the veteran band members was clear, Petty leading them like a conductor with arm gestures. After following up with ‘You Wreck Me’, Petty thanked the crowd and told them he was pleased to be back in England – the set came as part of the band’s first live dates in the UK for 20 years – before playing the classic ‘I Won’t Back Down’.

As well as hits like ‘Here Comes My Girl’, ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’, ‘Free Fallin” and ‘Learning To Fly’, the set included a rendition of ‘Handle With Care’ by The Traveling Wilburys, the supergroup Petty formed with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

Petty appeared particularly animated during a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’, running around the front of stage shaking a pair of maracas furiously. “Are you read for some rock’n’roll, some good old headbanging?” he asked the crowd before playing ‘I Shoulda Known It’. “I wanna lay a little mojo on ya.” He then closed with an encore of ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and ‘American Girl’.

Jack Henstridge, 21, from Salisbury, said: “He’s amazing. ‘Learning To Fly’ was brilliant. The whole thing was amazing, and when he played that – brilliant. The weather was pretty awful getting here, but this was just awesome. Just forgot all about it, the sun was out, this guy was living life, I was living life. Done.”

Menawhile, Andrew Davie from Newport, South Wales, 25 enthused: “I’m a big fan. He played somewhere in London a few days ago, I know, but before that [it] was a long, long time. ‘Refugee’ I think was my favourite. I’ll be honest, the build up for today seemed a little bit boring and a little bit kind of safe, and they came on and they blew me away.”

Jenny Leigh, 32, from Birmingham, added: “I grew up listening to his music so to finally see him live is a dream. Me and my friends had a group-hug moment when he played ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’, it was incredible.”

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers played:

‘Listen To Her Heart’
‘You Wreck Me’
‘I Won’t Back Down’
‘Here Comes My Girl’
‘Handle With Care’
‘Good Enough’
‘Oh Well’
‘Something Big’
‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’
‘Free Fallin”
‘It’s Good To Be King’
‘Something Good Coming’
‘Learning To Fly’
‘Yer So Bad’
‘I Shoulda Known It’
‘Refugee’
‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’
‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’
‘American Girl’

Other acts to play earlier in the day, meanwhile, included Noah And The Whale, Lana Del Rey and Elbow.

The festival site had been thrown into chaos following heavy rain and severe flooding earlier in the week (June 21), but Noah And The Whale charmed a large Main Stage crowd with a bright, positive set with the band’s Urby Whale defying the mud in a white suit. Frontman Charlie Fink celebrated the turn in the festival’s weather fortune by dedicating ‘Blue Skies’ to “this incredible thing above us, it looks amazing”, and a closing trio of ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’, ‘5 Years Time’ and ‘LIFEGOESON’ left spirits well and truly lifted.

Next up on the main stage was Example. After opening with ‘Stay Awake’ and ‘See The Sea’, he worked the crowd up, asking “Where’s the fucking lunatics at?”. “What rain, what mud, what traffic?” he demanded mid-set. “If you’re here to see another band and not me that’s fair enough, let’s all try and enjoy ourselves.” Circle pits formed in the crowd on Example’s request during ‘Playing In The Shadows’ and he seemed pleased with the results, beaming “How fun is this?” during a euphoric ‘Watch The Sun Come Up’.

Lana Del Rey also appeared confident during her Big Top set, with her voice in good form. Opening with ‘Blue Jeans’ she looked comfortable and in control of the stage despite a packed-tight tent, while ‘Born To Die’, ‘Summertime Sadness’ and ‘Without You’ also made an appearance.

During ‘Video Games’ Del Rey gave the crowd a wide smile after the “and baby, now you do” line before ending on an impressive vocal flourish. “Fuck yes, that was so good,” she enthused, before closing her set with ‘National Anthem’.

Elbow, who played underneath Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers on the main stage, put on an emotive show, with frontman Guy Garvey telling the crowd: “The light’s beginning to fade, the sun is going down – a whole world of magic and mysticism is opening up for you lot.” T

The Mancunian band’s set incorporated tracks including ‘The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver’, ‘Lippy Kids’, ‘Grounds For Divorce’, Leaders Of The Free World’, ‘Open Arms’ and a final impassioned verson of ‘One Day Like This’. “I know I talk too much,” Garvey told the crowd, “but you can’t let them mess with festivals, because it’s the one weekend that everyone has to restore their faith in humanity.”

The festival continues today with performances from Pearl Jam, Biffy Clyro and Magnetic Man. You can watch NME‘s video guide to the seven must-see bands at Isle Of Wight festival by scrolling down to the bottom of the page and clicking.

NME.COM is coming live from Isle Of Wight Festival this weekend. Stay tuned to NME.COM/festivals/isle-of-wight for news, blogs, photo galleries and video interviews.

Tom Petty, Crystal Castles, Lana Del Rey and more – Isle Of Wight festival day one in photos.

Who stole the show at Isle Of Wight 2012? Vote now.