During the Florida Gators’ home football games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, fans at The Swamp pay tribute to a local hero. After Tom Petty’s death in October 2017, the university began playing the Gainesville native’s song “I Won’t Back Down” prior to the start of the fourth quarter. It was an instant hit and became the school’s newest tradition during all of Florida’s home games.
On Saturday night, Garth Brooks invaded The Swamp for the third stop on his three-year Stadium Tour. Brooks was joined on stage by his wife and country music artist Trisha Yearwood during an incredible three-song tribute to Gainesville’s favorite son.
In the middle of show, Brooks played “Refugee,” which Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made famous in 1980 with their third album Damn the Torpedoes. Next, Brooks invited Yearwood on stage as she sang Stevie Nicks’ vocals from “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Lastly, Brooks gave all 75,000 Tom Petty fans the song they’d been waiting for.
The sold out crowd came together and sang “I Won’t Back Down” in a goosebumps-inducing tribute to Tom Petty.
“They say they haven’t had a concert here in over 20 years,” Brooks said about the significance of playing at UF. “Well, I’m gonna tell everyone this is the place to come play right here.”
Back in 2006, Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan presented Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench and Ron Blair, each of whom are also Gainesville natives — with keys to the city and proclaimed September 21 as “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Day.”
After Petty’s death, Northeast Park, which is about a block from Petty’s childhood home in north Florida, was renamed Tom Petty Park in his honor.
Garth Brooks’ next stop on his tour will be two dates at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on May 3 and 4. Then, he’ll visit Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on May 18 before taking over Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver. After that, Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon is Brooks’ last announced show on the tour for now, but more will be announced later in the year.
The rest of these shows will each bring something unique with them, but seeing Brooks’ Tom Petty tribute to his hometown was truly special, and it’ll be one of the best highlights on his incredible tour.