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Tom Petty Soars Down from Mulholland

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers soar through a set of jangly epics for their adopted hometown at the Hollywood Bowl.

Tom Petty is no newcomer to the Hollywood Bowl. He's a frequent visitor, seeming to find both comfort and inspiration in its vast open-air setting, a space well-suited to his epic tales of young antiheroes and world-weary survivors.

The power of those songs about rebellion and possibility, the joy and confusion of young boy-girl confrontations -- many of which date back to the '70s -- hasn't diminished with age, something the Heartbreakers ably demonstrated during a two-hour performance Wednesday night.

The overwhelming emphasis at the Bowl was on the vast catalog of hits Petty's created these last three decades. But everything in the Heartbreakers' delivery suggested a band of contemporary musicians who believe in the salvation of classic rock music, playing timeless songs full of drama and defiance and understated idealism.

It is tough to ignore a history as rich as the one Petty has created with the Heartbreakers. He's managed to hold on to two of the finest musicians of his generation: keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell. Both are coveted guest players on recordings by other major acts, but it's with Petty that they shine the brightest -- from Tench's freewheelin' organ on “Listen to Her Heart" to Campbell's skittish slide work at the Bowl on “Free Fallin' “ while Petty strummed an acoustic 12-string.

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