Petty Plays Two Songs from New Album on SNL – The verdict? Petty Zep, Man

Tom Petty on SNL 5.15.10
Petty with no guitar?  That never happens.  Heavy duty, Jimmy Page-ish Mike Campbell guitar playing? That should happen more.  The longtime Heartbreaker guitar slinger stretches out and added a dirty slide solo as they played “I Should Have Known It” (from their new album) for their first song on the season finale of Saturday Night Live. It was Zeppelin Blues, wrapped into a Petty sound we haven’t heard from him for, maybe ever.  I like it.  More interesting than recycling his “Learning to Fly sound” It makes the Hearbreakers a suddenly retro-but-not-like-themselves band – though the Mudcrutch swamp fury obviously rubbed off on what they have done for the new record, Mojo, due out June 15.

After reuniting in 2008 with his former Florida-based band (which was actually Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, plus original Mudcrutchers Tom Leadon on guitar and vocals and Randall Marsh on drums), they made a a heavier-than-Petty jam-based rock album.  It still had roots in the Petty base of pop/rock sound yet probably was recorded puffing on some good weed; more “Exile on Main Street, less “Turn, Turn, Turn”

And that sound, from what I’ve listened to online and now seen, has carried into this TP and the Heartbreakers album.  And the first song Saturday night on SNL rang with that vibe

Hear’s a peek at the album version – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – “I Should Have Known It” – official video

For their second tune, which was slotted into the final ten minutes of the broadcast, they came with a new blues-rock number, with Scott Thurston holding down a pulsing harp and a band rocking a Chicago electric blues groove.  Much more tangibly retro, with a vibe culled from old Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley records.  Not as interesting of a performance, until the two Mike and Tom guitar solos, played simultaneously with echoing leads. 

Here’s what it is:  You’ve got the kind of music that sounds good turned up loud, after three beers and some grilled burgers in a garage or backyard patio, on a summer night.  The album and sound may be his most interesting and gut-invoking music in ten years.  Or since that last Mudcrutch album.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (with Drive By Truckers) play at Deer Creek (Verizon Wireless Music Center) in Noblesville July 10.

One more thing: In November 2009, Petty told Rolling Stone’s David Fricke that it was his intention to record the album live in the studio without overdubs. He said the album is “blues-based. Some of the tunes are longer, more jammy kind of music. A couple of tracks really sound like the Allman Brothers — not the songs but the atmosphere of the band.”

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