Low-key Petty still manages to rev up a crowd

LANDOVER — Landover -- For a low-key kinda guy, Tom Petty sure can get a crowd going.

It's not as if he does a lot of fast songs, or runs around the stage trying to whip the audience into a lather. In fact, about the craziest thing he did during his show at the Capital Centre last night was chase a couple presidents off the stage with a peace sign.


Yet his fans loved every minute of it.

What's his secret? Well, some of it is personality, that sense of mischief lurking beneath his sly grin and aw-shucks demeanor.


But mostly it has to do with hits, something this guy has in abundance. Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, are celebrating their 15th anniversary with this tour and there have been few years together that they haven't produced at least a couple hits.

So rich is his catalog, in fact, that the evening could easily have degenerated into a greatest hits show. It didn't for two reasons: first, Petty made sure to augment expected selections like "Free Falling" and "Refugee" with covers and lesser-known tunes like "King of Mr. the Hill;" and second, because Petty knew enough to have fun with the show.

Hence, the presidents -- Nixon, Reagan and Bush, to be exact -- who emerged from a large tree onstage to chase the singer around during "Don't Come Around Here No More."

It sounds nuts, but it looked great and worked even better.