Mike Campbell spent four decades as a masterful but somewhat wrapped guitarist in Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. Now he is learning to be a confident leader.
Taking the stage at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York last night, Campbell looked like a seasoned rocker in mirrored sunglasses and a snakeskin jacket. “I hope you paid the babysitter because we’re going to be here a long time,” he said.
Campbell now fronts the Dirty Knobs, a hard-rock band the guitarist started playing with when he wasn’t busy with his “other band,” as he called it throughout the season. night. The Knobs include drummer Matt Laug, Lance Morrison on bass and guitarist Jason Sinay, whom Campbell admiringly described as “the closest thing to Brian Jones I’ve ever heard”.
The Knobs didn’t hit the stage so much as they stormed it, starting with “Wicked Mind”, a song from their recently released album, External combustion. More new material followed with songs like “Dirty Job”, “Electric Gypsy”, and “Rat City”. The band dove deep into their catalog, with songs from 2020’s debut, Wreckless abandonment, including “I Still Love You,” “Don’t Knock the Boogie” and crowd favorite “Fuck That Guy,” which Campbell explained earned its title from country star Chris Stapleton. “I think he was embarrassed to write it,” Campbell noted. “But I wasn’t.”
Campbell, who has been touring with original Knobs music for only a few months, isn’t used to being in the limelight, but there’s an unmistakable joy that spreads across his face as he interacts with it. an audience, leading it in vocal lines, waving to fans, and throwing guitar picks into their hands. A darkly lit part-time bowling alley was the perfect venue for the Knobs’ gritty, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll.
He’s a humble leader but also very aware of his heritage, releasing a handful of Heartbreakers songs and breathing new life into them. He dedicated “Refugee” to the late “Brother” Petty, as well as to the people of Ukraine. Bathed in blue and yellow lights, Campbell deservedly sang “Everyone had to fight to be free.”
“Southern Accents”, “Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It)”, “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “You Got Lucky” were also taken from Campbell’s past, as the former guitarist took on his new position at the microphone. . “I love carrying these songs,” he said. “These are great songs and they deserve to live. … There’s nothing quite like the power of rock ‘n’ roll. Thank goodness.”