Petty's simple approach enthralls fans at Consol

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 7:21 a.m.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers gave fans a night of good, clean, classic rock and roll at Consol Energy Center on June 20, when the music and the band's charisma provided the entertainment largely without the accompanying frills.

Compared to many rock concerts today, with their high-tech visual effects and theatrics, Petty's show could be considered dull. A red curtain provided the lone backdrop for the stage, which had no props or decorations, just instruments and speakers. Occasional lighting effects were about the only complements to the music.

Yet Petty's understated style might be one of his best assets. Without all of the extras, listeners focus on live music that, with warm and energetic performers, stands alone as great entertainment.

Petty, clad in a purple shirt under a black overcoat and vest, gets much of his stage charisma from his beaming smile. The show had little to no dancing, but Petty regularly walked from one end of the stage to the other flashing a big, satisfying grin at the audience and waving. Petty — still with his signature long, straight hair — does not look like he is in his early 60s. His appearance and voice could belong to someone at least 10 years younger. His voice sounds mostly like it did a few decades ago with few signs of aging.

Petty's two-hour set covered many of his biggest hits since the 1970s — including '80s favorites “I Won't Back Down” and “Free Fallin,' ” which had the mostly middle-aged audience pumping their arms and singing the “Hey baby!” and “Freeeee!” refrains from the spirited anthems.

Only hard-core, well-versed Petty fans, would have recognized every song in the set, though, as he swapped out a few hits for lesser-known, even obscure album cuts. Few remembered “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” from the album “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1” in 1988.

During largely acoustic periods in the middle of the show, the audience fell almost silent, as people curiously listened to the unrecognized song. The concert offered a course in Petty-ology history, along with fans' favorite songs.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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