it's been years since I saw Tom Petty and the Heatbreakers in concert, but when my friend Paul invited me to join him last night at The Beacon, I jumped at the chance. To see a band that good with prime seats in a venue that small is pretty special. They've got a five-concert residency (ending on Saturday), which allows them to play around with the set list each night.
Early on, Petty warned that it wasn't going to be a greatest hits kind of concert, but a chance to play some deep tracks. With as well-oiled an outfit as the Heartbreakers (who rank somewhere between the E Street Band and The Rumour among the all-time best backing bands), it's a treat to hear them stretch a little. In addition to the deep tracks (many of which, I confess, i didn't recognize), they worked in more than enough Petty standards, like "Don't Do me Like That," "A Woman in Love," "Refugee," and "Runnin' Down a Dream."
The real treat was hearing them tackle some covers. Beyond "So You Want to Be a Rock & Star" (a Petty staple and the concert opener), there was a great obscure Zombies b-side (didn't catch the title, but something about "Burning"?), Lowell George's great "Willin'," and, best of all, an extended jam on "Mystic Eyes," the Van Morrison classic from his Them days.
As the final encore, Petty said they'd go back to where it all began with "American Girl" - an anthem that every guy and girl, young and old, believing in the magic of rock & roll.