Concert review: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with ZZ Top at St. Pete Times Forum (with photos)

[image-1]Mojo is Mike Campell’s coming-out party, and the 60-year-old has embraced the role of Guitar God with an adolescent energy, not only strutting his chops but repeatedly going for the hair-raising lick and writhing and contorting like any dutiful Guitar God does. For most of his tenure as the musician Petty calls his co-captain, Campbell [pictured left] has been subdued, even taciturn, content to play the chords, add color and a clipped solo here and there. I like the new Mike.


More context: Petty’s show was an example of how the music business has gone topsy-turvy. With the record industry in the dumper, bands don’t dare over-indulge with new material on stage. Touring is the bread and butter now, and it’s not wise to risk pissing off fans by ego-trippin’ with a slew of brand new album cuts.


They came to hear the hits, by golly, and Petty, no dummy, gave ’em up.


The best oldie? “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (which came, incidentally, after the Mojo sequence), a song the band seems to relish playing again and again and again. That such a weird, wonderful tune would have absolutely zero chance of being a hit today is another commentary on the modern music business.


It occurs to me as I near the end of this review that in the context of modern music journalism critics don’t often get to ruminate and ramble like I’ve doing in the preceding paragraphs. If you’ve read this far, thanks.


Oh, one more thing: You can’t tell me that when the two frontmen in ZZ Top put their head on a hotel pillow late at night, they don’t sometimes say: Fuck this beard, man, I wish I could just shave the damn thing off. Their opening set was a workmanlike show by cartoon characters. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do in the context of the modern music business.


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More photos by Phil:


ZZ Top


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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers


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When the critic starts pondering a concert’s meaning in the overall context of the modern music business model, and the critic does so right in the middle of the concert, perhaps that’s a sign that the show is not as captivating is it should be. [All photos by Phil Bardi.]

And so it was with me and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers last night at the St. Pete Times Forum. The band delivered a solid show in front of nearly 15,000 adoring fans, but for this critic — who loves the band and can’t quite recall how many times he’s seen them, only that it has to be in double the figures — it elicited more nods of appreciation than genuine enthusiasm and emotional involvement. (Yes, the veteran critic is still capable of getting pretty worked up at a great rock concert.) Perhaps that’s a comment on the critic, but Petty and company usually move me — and last night, well, they didn’t. Not much.

Now regarding that chin-stroking about context and the music biz: There was a time when bands like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers would tour to promote a new album, play nearly the whole damn thing, and tack on a few catalog hits near the end.

Don’t like it? Fuck you. We’re into playing the new shit.

Petty and the guys have a new album out, Mojo, which is their best in a long, long time. They didn’t pimp it last night. Instead, they performed four songs in a row about two-thirds into the set, with Petty introducing the title to each. (Subtext: Try these songs out; we like ’em; we hope you do to.) For my money — wait, I got in free — it was the best part of the show. The band played “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” “Good Enough,” “Running Man’s Bible” and “I Should Have Known It” with the verve of kids riding a new bicycle found under the Christmas tree. (Had I made the setlist, it would have included “First Flash of Freedom.”)

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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