Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers created a summer tradition of playing the great wide open in the meadows of Burgettstown.
On Thursday night, the veteran band moved back indoors for the first time here since the "Wildflowers" tour. That was 1995, when there was a dome here still called the Civic Arena. On that March night, the Heartbreakers ignored a lot of the hits that made them arena headliners.
This time, they came to do it all at Consol Energy Center. Although 2010's "Mojo" was well-received at the time, it was left behind in favor of old classics, cool rarities and a few choice covers, all starting with "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star," from the Heartbreakers' jangle-rock inspiration, The Byrds.
"We had a great afternoon in Pittsburgh," the frontman said. "Hope your schedule's open. I don't have to be anywhere for hours."
He filled it with one of the most hit-filled concerts of the summer, backed by a veteran band that has few equals. The brilliance of Petty is that songs like "Here Comes My Girl," "I Won't Back Down" and "Free Fallin' " were written to never get old and, sure enough, they haven't.
Same goes for Mr. Petty. Who knew he would sound almost exactly the same singing them at 62? As for Mike Campbell - who expected he'd have dreads at 63? - he's only gotten better, and his solos on "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "A Woman in Love" and others cut through the arena like Sidney Crosby splitting defenders.
An early change-up was the blues-rock nugget "Baby, Please Don't Go," which had the Heartbreakers chugging along like a freight train and Mr. Petty growling a talk-sing about a "bipolar" girlfriend (he apologized for using the term).
In the rarity department were the Southern Accents' love ballad "The Best of Everything" and the barrelhouse piano-powered "Melinda," an extended showcase for Benmont Tench. For this tour, he's also rescued the Traveling Wilburys fave "Tweeter and the Monkey Man," which had Mr. Petty doing Dylan doing Springsteen, which is quite a trick.
Given gentle acoustic treatment were "Rebels," as an acoustic lament, and "Learning to Fly," with a spare arrangement and big crowd sing-along, segueing into the rowdier "Yer So Bad."
The Heartbreakers cranked it full blast in the last half-hour with Mr. Campbell getting the Led out on the "Mojo" entry "I Should Have Known It," then into "Refugee" and "Runnin' Down a Dream" to close the set.
They returned to power through "Don't Come Around Here No More" and "You Wreck Me" (with a slow, Garcia-tinged solo) and bring it all full circle ("We're gonna leave you where we started," Mr. Petty said) on the Byrds-y jangle of "American Girl."
Of course, the arena was packed from the floor to the rafters, and it's safe to say we were all thrilled our schedules were open for this one. They are an American band and one of the best there is.
Repping New Jersey was power-pop band The Smithereens looking older but coming on strong with such smoky-sounding '80s tunes as "Blood and Roses," Only a Memory" and "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and a booming cover of The Who's "Sparks."
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. First Published June 21, 2013 3:45 AM