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REVIEW: Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs, Hoyt Sherman Place, 7.3.24

Text and photos by Michael Swanger

Last week, in an interview with ListenIowa, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Mike Campbell said that after nearly 50 years of playing with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers he was sure that he had picked up a few nuances from watching Petty as the group’s frontman. That much, and more, was evident as Campbell and his band, The Dirty Knobs, delivered a sensational, nearly two-and-a-half hour show last night (July 3) at Hoyt Sherman Place that featured a range of material from heartbreaking blues and country ballads to propulsive rockers. It was a powerful reminder of the vitality and versatility of rock and roll when placed in the deft hands of a legendary guitarist like Campbell and his talented ensemble that included Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone, bassist Lance “Crawdaddy” Morrison and guitarist/keyboardist Chris “Sidewinder” Holt. 

Campbell made an early appearance in the show introducing solo artist Shannon McNally, who performed a number of original folk-country-blues songs in her opening set bookended by covers of Waylon Jenning’s “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” the latter of which was a stirring duet with Campbell. McNally would later join Campbell and The Dirty Knobs on the soulful ballad and duet, “Hell Or High Water,” from the band’s new album, “Vagabonds, Virgins & Misfits,” that features Campbell and Lucinda Williams. Her inclusion in the show was a highlight and a revelation to the new fans that she made last night at Hoyt. 

Following McNally’s set, Campbell and The Dirty Knobs proceeded to knock out more than 20 songs to an appreciative audience. Most of the material was comprised of songs from the band’s new album, from the opening rocker “So Alive” and message of hope, “Dare To Dream,” to the uptempo steamroller “Don’t Wait Up” and the road-inspired, true tale of “Innocent Man.” They revisited their first album, 2020’s “Wreckless Abandon” with the hilarious, middle finger to the Covid-19 pandemic, “Fuck That Guy,” which turned into an audience sing-along, before returning to material from “Vagabonds, Virgins & Misfits,” including “Angel of Mercy” and “Hands Are Tied,” which clearly demonstrated Petty’s influence on Campbell’s singing style. 

Speaking of Petty, the audience rose to its feet for a cover of “Even the Losers,” the first of a handful of Heartbreakers songs covered by Campbell and his bandmates at Hoyt. As the show progressed, they also performed a few deep cuts from the Heartbreakers’ catalog such as “Ways to Be Wicked,” which Campbell re-recorded with Margo Price for the new tribute album, “Petty Country”; “Rockin’ Around (With You)” from Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1976 self-titled, debut album; “All or Nothin’” from 1991’s “Into the Great Wide Open”; “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough),” the title track from Petty’s seventh studio album released in 1987; and the epic “Running Down A Dream” from Petty’s iconic 1989 album “Full Moon Fever,” which closed the show. 

The band also played “Shake These Blues,” “I Still Love You,” “Wicked Mind,” “In This Lifetime,” “Southern Boy,” Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie” and “Sugar,” all of which featured tremendous musical interplay between the quartet highlighted by Campbell’s heartfelt vocals and stellar lead guitar work on a variety of guitars made by Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Rickenbacker and the night’s workhorse — a white Firebird hand signed by Johnny Winter. The vibe, the energy and the material were all reminiscent of Petty and the Heartbreakers, though it was clear that Campbell and company are developing a musical brotherhood with a life of its own that continues to intrigue and inspire.