Mike Campbell Confirms Tom Petty Fillmore Performances Box Set
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played many gigs during their 40-year history as a group. But the band’s 1997 residency at the Fillmore in San Francisco looms large in the memory of many fans. Now, a box set collecting the best of the many songs performed during the run has recently been completed.
“It’s been mixed [and] I hear it is coming out,” guitarist Mike Campbell confirms during a conversation with UCR, though no release date has been scheduled. “I’m really proud of it. It was one of the greatest parts of our career. We were free to not have to play the hits every night. We changed the set list.”
Settling in for a 20 night stand at the San Francisco venue in January and February of that year, it was clear from the start just how much fun Petty and the band were having, playing to an audience of about 1,200 guests per show. Each night of the sold out residency boasted a set list that was wildly different from the previous evening.
A selection of the group’s own hits and deeper cuts mixed seamlessly with a generous selection of covers. Some, like their take on the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil,” paid tribute to the area itself. Others, such as Booker T and the MG’s “Green Onions,” honored their influences.
The final night of the stand on Feb. 7, was broadcast live nationwide on the radio and found the band stretching out for more than three hours and 40 songs, the longest show of the run.
They would return to the Fillmore in 1999 for additional shows, with highlights from that year seeing release on the High Grass Dogs DVD. Similar residencies would follow in other cities, but nothing would ever top the length and excitement of that original San Francisco stint.
Campbell is preparing to release External Combustion, the second album with his current band, the Dirty Knobs. He says he's happy the Fillmore run is finally getting a fresh round of attention with the forthcoming release. “We changed the songs every night and took some liberties with some of the arrangements here and there,” he remembers. “I’m really glad we got that on tape. Of course, we had some guest artists like John Lee Hooker, Roger McGuinn, Bo Diddley.”
While a handful of songs were included on The Live Anthology box set in 2009, this will be the first proper release focused on the Fillmore shows. Campbell has previously expressed hope that a box set covering these performances would be released, describing the Fillmore residency as "almost the pinnacle of the band" in 2018. “It’s a really good illustration of the Heartbreakers just being spontaneous and in the moment without being too rehearsed,” he tells UCR. “I’m really proud of that.”
Top 100 Live Albums
The Importance of Tom Petty’s ‘Wildflowers’