Tom Petty stands aside for The Heartbreakers in an exceptional concert

Perhaps Tom Petty was just stating the obvious when he called The Heartbreakers "a multi-talented bunch of guys."

Maybe, in his own strange way, he is guilty of the understatement of the year.


But sometimes an adoring crowd, like the small but passionate one gathered at the Capital Centre last night, gets a little too enamored with the quarterback to fully appreciate the front line that does much of the dirty work. A subtle little reminder can never hurt.

In this case, Petty's Heartbreakers (is it really fair to give him the possessive?) deserve all of the attention and more.


Guitarist Mike Campbell, drummer Stan Lynch, bassist Howie Epstein and keyboardist Benmont Tench once again wasted no time in proving that they are the best quartet of anonymous musicians in the business.

And Petty must realize his past sins of neglect, because last night he took every opportunity to allow The Heartbreakers to shine.

First, Lynch got to sing a blues song, with Petty accompanying on harmonica. Tench followed with a five-minute piano blues stomp ("This looks like a boogie-woogie room," Petty quipped) and Campbell finished with a similar psychedelic, triple-guitar solo.

As for Epstein, his soulful harmonies are showcased on every Petty classic from "Refugee" to "I Won't Back Down."

It just doesn't get any better.

Petty was no slouch in his own right, once the show got rolling.

Drawing from every conceivable part of his catalog (and a few others' as well), the band ripped through 22 songs as Petty turned on a virtual machine gun of fantastic music.

A few new tunes from "Into The Great Wide Open." Two big hits from his last solo album, "Full Moon Fever." Acoustic versions of "Listen To Her Heart" and "American Girl." The opening verse of "Breakdown," which was all that was truly necessary.


It only got better.

A Van Morrison cover. A classy version of "King of The Hill," which Petty helped write with King Byrd, Roger McGuinn. Two more biggies from his solo record. A dusted-off guitar clinic from Campbell on "You Got Lucky." Then he finally got around to "Refugee" and "Running Down A Dream."

What could he possibly encore with?

He did a solo reading of "The Waiting," with the band bursting in for the last chorus, and finished the show with a pair of tunes from the new album, "Built To Last" and "Makin' Some Noise."

The only disappointing portion of the evening came during the intermission, when the house lights came up to show an embarrassingly small crowd of about 7,000.

But Petty, the professional, rose above it. He managed to make all 7,000 feel as if they were in a club in Gainesville, Fla., 15 years ago when it all began.