The Petty Archives

Guitar hero of Tom Petty show
By Curtis Ross
The Tampa Tribune - September 16, 2010

Fans who think rock 'n' roll primarily is about the guitars would have been in heaven Thursday night when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the St. Pete Times Forum.

Petty may be the front man but Mike Campbell's guitar was front and center in the mix, sometimes even drowning out Petty's vocals.

It's not that surprising considering Petty built the band's latest album, "Mojo," around the sound of Campbell's Gibson Les Paul. Campbell gave that guitar (most likely a replica of the actual 1959 model he reportedly purchased for six figures) several satisfying workouts throughout the set.

He was particularly fiery on "Mojo" tunes such as "Good Enough" and "I Should Have Known It" which nodded to The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and Led Zeppelin, respectively.

But Campbell was chomping at the bit well before the mid-set "Mojo" material, juicing "I Won't Back Down" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance" with aggressive lead and rhythm work.

The whole band, in fact, sounded not only superb but hugely energized, never mind that it's well into its fourth decade.

Petty, with able backing vocals from Scott Thurston, sounded great and was especially playful, shaking his hips throughout and wielding a pair of maracas on the Heartbreakers' ferocious version of "Oh Well," by Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac.

ZZ Top already has reached the 40-year mark. "The same three guys right here," Billy Gibbons told the crowd during its opening set. Lifting his guitar, he added, "the same three chords right here."

As if they needed anything more. The band's blues-rocking prowess may have been overshadowed in the public's eye by their '80s videos, but the trio was absolutely smoking during its hourlong set. Hearing the Top work out on "Just Got Paid," "Cheap Sunglasses" and "Sharp Dressed Man" was a reminder of what can happen when the right three guys play the right three chords.