Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs

Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs w/ Alvin Youngblood• Hart October 18, 2022• The Commonwealth Room

Reviewed and Photographed by Alisha Gregson

On Tuesday, October 18th, Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs brought their tour in support of the band’s new album External Combustion, to the Commonwealth Room in Salt Lake City. Even if you have never heard Mike Campbell’s name before, you are likely already familiar with many of his songs. In his over 40 years as lead guitarist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Campbell co-wrote many songs with Petty. Including “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Refugee.” As an incredibly talented guitar player, Campbell also played on studio albums for other artists including Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, and Johnny Cash. After Tom Petty passed away, Mike Campbell continued to find opportunities to play for a crowd. Including his time spent on tour with Fleetwood Mac. 

Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs started as a side project when Campbell was still part of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It has since become a bigger focus for Campbell in recent years. The band released their first album Wreckless Abandon in 2020, and their second External Combustion just earlier this year. This summer, the band went on tour opening for Chris Stapleton, making a stop in Utah at USANA Amphitheatre. They are now on tour opening for The Who. Before his USANA performance this summer, Mike Campbell’s last time performing in Utah was in 2002. With Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Campbell has spent the majority of his career playing in front of massive audiences at the largest venues. I was looking forward to seeing what it was like for him to play in a smaller venue like The Commonwealth Room. In front of a crowd of around 500.

Alvin Youngblood Hart

Opening the night was Alvin Youngblood Hart. The Grammy Award-winning blues artist captivated the audience with his soulful music and the occasional story. While strumming a guitar that he told the audience he purchased for $80 at a pawn shop in Myrtle Beach, Hart played a cover of Flamin’ Groovies song “City Lights”. His 8-song set also included original songs, “How Long Before I Change My Clothes,” and “Big Mama’s Door.” He ended with another cover, a fun version of the Rolling Stones’ “Child of the Moon.” The crowd enjoyed his music, and it was a great start to the night. 

Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs

Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs stepped out on stage and immediately connected with the crowd. Campbell told the audience how happy they were to be there. He introduced the band, and told everyone to get on board for some rock n’ roll. They started their set with three songs from their new External Combustion album, “Wicked Mind,” “Lightning Boogie,” and “Dirty Job.” Campbell has not lost his touch when it comes to songwriting, and I was very impressed with his new music.

I’m sure the band knew the audience would be looking forward to hearing some Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker covers. They didn’t make the crowd wait too long before playing “Fault Lines,” “Even the Losers,” and “Listen to Her Heart.” Tom Petty songs are covered all the time, and I have almost started to expect them at concerts. But this of course was different. It was a unique experience to hear them play these songs with both an authenticity only Mike Campbell or another one of the Heartbreakers can bring, as well as some added originality. I noticed more of an emphasis on the guitar solos. Something I had anticipated with a guitarist as talented as Campbell.

Mike Campbell and the Heartbreakers surprised us with a couple of unexpected covers. “She Said She Said” by The Beatles, and John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”. As Campbell chatted with the crowd he mentioned the next song they would be playing was one he co-wrote with Don Henley. I already knew he helped write the hit song “The Boys of Summer,” and expected that was the song they were about to play. However, they instead began to play “The Heart of the Matter”. One I did not know Campbell had helped write. Campbell mentioned this was the very first time he ever performed the song live. Although the band’s guitarist and bassist had played it many times as part of Don Henley’s solo band.

I was surprised to hear that he had never performed it before. But I was thrilled to be in the room when he played it live for the first time. They played it perfectly, and I imagine it will be added to the setlist for many future concerts.

Throughout the night, they did an excellent job keeping the crowd engaged. Going back and forth between covers and originals, they played a very impressive 2 1/2-hour set. Their new song “Electric Gypsy” stood out to me as one the audience connected with. Fans were of course excited to hear them play “Refugee.” They ended their set with a cover of “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” adding an exciting guitar solo and some fun riffs.

After a few minutes off stage, Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs returned to perform one of the best encores I have ever seen. They began with a cover of “You Got Lucky”. They stretched the normally 3 1/2 minute song out for about 10 minutes with Campbell’s mesmerizing guitar playing. While it had been fun to see him step up as a lead singer all night, his performance during this song was a reminder that he has spent his entire life perfecting his skills to become one of the most talented guitarists. They then asked the audience what they wanted to hear next.

At the request of someone near the front of the room, the band’s next song was Chuck Berry’s hit “Little Queenie”. To end the night, Mike Campbell asked Alvin Youngblood Hart to join the band on stage. With Hart and Campbell taking turns on vocals, they played a medley of Bo Diddley songs “Road Runner,” “Who Do You Love?,” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover,” ending with the chorus from Cream’s “I’m So Glad.” 

Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs put on one of the best concerts I have had the opportunity to attend. Their talent is hard to match, and their love for the music felt so authentic. While I am sure they are just as amazing on a big stage in front of 20,000 people, the intimate setting of The Commonwealth Room made this concert feel special. Mike Campbell interacted with his fans all night. I don’t know when they will be back to Utah. But whether their openers or headliners, I know I won’t want to miss it. 

Setlist:

Wicked Mind
Lightning Boogie
Dirty Job
Fault Lines (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Irish Girl
Even the Losers  (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Fuck That Guy
Listen to Her Heart (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Rockin’ Around (With You) (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
She Said She Said (The Beatles cover)
Working Class Hero (John Lennon cover)
The Heart of the Matter (Don Henley cover)
I Still Love You
Electric Gypsy 

In This Lifetime
Sugar
Refugee (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Southern Boy
Runnin’ Down a Dream (Tom Petty cover)

Encore:

You Got Lucky (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Little Queenie (Chuck Berry cover)
Road Runner (Bo Diddley cover) (with Alvin Youngblood Hart)
Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley cover) (with Alvin Youngblood Hart)
You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover (Bo Diddley cover) (with Alvin Youngblood Hart)
I’m So Glad (Cream cover) (with Alvin Youngblood Hart)