Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs
Uptown Theatre, Napa
June 19, 2022
All photos by Tom Dellinger
With the passing of Tom Petty in 2017, the heart of rock music suffered a massive loss. He and the Heartbreakers made a huge imprint on our musical landscape that was unique. With masterful songwriting, the wit, charm and vocals of Tom Petty, along with one of the most lauded bands in the business, they rode the crest for over forty years, leaving behind a breathtaking body of work in their wake. So, when one of the Heartbreakers, especially guitarist Mike Campbell puts together a band and hits the road, there’s going to be a lot of interest.
Though Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs might be a new band to most, they actually first formed in 2001 and played occasional gigs, mostly in the LA area when the Heartbreakers had some down time. After the shock of losing Tom, Mike still wanted to have a band and got to work resurrecting the Knobs which led to their first release, Wreckless Abandon in November 2020. With the pandemic wreaking havoc on everyone’s ambitions and schedules, they quickly put together and released their most recent album, External Combustion in the summer of 2021. It’s been a rocky start for touring for everyone and that’s also true for this band as they also had makeup dates in San Francisco earlier this year where they lit up The Independent in March.
On a recent Sunday, the band returned to the Bay Area for a date at The Uptown Theater in Napa. The lineup for the band, in addition to Mike, included Jason Sinay (guitar), Lance Morrison (bass), and original Heartbreaker Stan Lynch on drums who is sitting in for Matt Laug for some of the dates on this tour. Since leaving the Heartbreakers in ’94, Stan has been best known for his songwriting / collaborations and producing, and yet on Sunday night, his drumming was every bit the drummer I saw back in the 80s. He must have been doing something to keep that together because he dropped in perfectly. This tour is called the External Combustion Tour, in support of their most recent release and Sunday night saw them laying into tracks from that and the earlier Wreckless Abandon with a few Heartbreaker tunes along the way.
It was a well balanced show that covered a range from laid back to hard rocking with an emphasis on rocking. The band sounded great and it was a reminder of how much Mike contributed to the sound of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The familiar vocals, the ringing guitars, sharp leads and dynamic compositions were all there. A particularly memorable moment was a haunting reworking of Refugee which felt both familiar and new at the same time. The final closing was especially poignant as Mike and Stan shared a mic to harmonize and sing the John Sebastisn tune, The Stories We Could Tell. Truly an excellent choice to close out the night.
“And if this all blows up and goes to hell
I can still see us sittin’ on the bed in some motel
Listenin’ to the stories we could tell.”
Opening was local blues artist Alvon Johnson. Alvon is well known in the Bay Area and is one of the most entertaining performers around here. He travels the world taking the blues to untold numbers of people in many cultures. It’s always a treat to catch him here at home and it was also a treat to catch him playing solo and acoustic which is a rarity. Needless to say he was excellent.
Here’s a slideshow with more photos of the performers by Tom Dellinger:
Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs
Setlist: Wicked Mind / Lightning Boogie / Irish Girl / Dirty Job / Fuck That Guy / I Still Love You / Psychotic Reaction (Count Five cover) / External Combustion / Refugee (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover) / Sugar / In This Lifetime / Southern Accents (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover) / Southern Boy / Runnin’ Down a Dream (Tom Petty cover) // Little Queenie (Chuck Berry cover) (includes a verse of Rainy Day Women 12&35)