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Veteran rockers keep their cool

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And Tom Petty has been listening to ours.

Indeed, it's been 20 years since Petty and the Heartbreakers last touched down in Dublin -- a tad unforgivable, perhaps, but the longer the wait, the larger the audience.

It helps, of course, if the songs (and the players) remain in good nick. But there was never any worry in that department.

A surprisingly youthful -- and sharply dressed -- figure, Petty (61) is very much aware of what he's been missing out on. So are we.

During Learning to Fly, Petty strips everything back to just an acoustic guitar and percussion for the sweetest, most atmospheric of sing-alongs with his fans. It really is something special. And it probably happens all the time. But tonight, when Petty tells us how happy he is to be back in our country, you tend to believe the guy. If only for the thrill in seeing these magnificent musicians bask in the glory of their wonder years.

A greatest hits set with very little filler (anything from 2010's Mojo sees fans racing for the nearest bar/toilet), Petty's two-hour stand looks and sounds the way every rock show should.

The only special effects tonight are the screens overhead, as the Heartbreakers breeze their way through a wonderful collection of radio anthems (Free Fallin'), soaring rock numbers (You Wreck Me), and a couple of welcome surprises (the Traveling Wilburys' Handle With Care).


Then there's the voice. It's clear that the Florida native has been looking after his finest instrument. Indeed, that peculiar yet oh-so effective American drawl of his continues to stand the test of time.

There's a certain subtlety about the way these men deliver their material. No running about or showing off ... well, maybe just a little.

For the most part, however, the Heartbreakers keep their cool, making way for a level of showmanship that only comes with being in this business so damn long.

Not that they're in any way jaded. Petty and his boys just have a reputation to keep. And when you've got a set-closer as good as 1977's American Girl, there's no need to waste time with small talk.

A tight rock show courtesy of some seriously skilled music makers. Just don't leave it another 20 years, lads.