Joan Jett and Heart at Mystic Amphitheater, 6/29/12
Photo by Jen Boyles
Joan Jett & Heart
Few opportunities as golden as this one arise for the nostalgic classic rockers in town to relive their youth in one show -- and outdoors, no less. That was the case this past Friday night -- a steamy one to be sure at 92 degrees -- when Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Heart performed at Mystic Lake Ampitheater.
Jett, 54, took the stage wearing an incredibly compact studded vinyl one-piece, the jumpsuit in general a staple of her wardrobe since parting with the Runways in her early 20s. Backed by just two guitarists and a drummer, she was rocker thin, tattooed, and just plain hot, yelps from the crowd filling the front of the stage where bouncers allowed fans to take pictures.
Photo by Jen Boyles
On the whole, the crowd looked like a where-are-they-now snapshot from an '80s high-school reunion or a Brainerd dive bar, but younger fans came to pay respects as well. Jett started off with a set of newer songs and tried to add backstory but fumbled a bit (albeit endearingly).
"This song is about... well... I'm usually better at this, so how about I just play it instead of talk about it," she joked flatly, power chords from the Blackhearts sounding a bit more modern than most were probably expecting.
It wasn't until, without any fanfare, the tiny rock goddess blazed into "I Love Rock & Roll" and the show picked itself up and launched 1,000+ hands into the air, pumping with every riff.
Soon after, Jett slowed things to a sultry grind with her cover of Tommy James & The Shondells' "Crimson & Clover," instantly recalling rock's better days. Something about Jett taking on the lyrics usually sung by a man sent the women in the stands swooning (It was around this time my friend's mom leaned over and told him she'd make out with her).
Jett's finest followed with her sneering smash and MTV glory-days hit, "I Hate Myself For Loving You." It was both the night's high point and the end of her 7-song set, when she took a bow and broke about 500 hearts with her exit.
Speaking of hearts, the headlining band was next, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson embarking on their first show of their tour supporting new studio album, Fanatic. They kicked things off with the title track, one of many watered-down post-classic songs they've performed live that feels like they're trying too hard to relate to current rock. This is not to say they couldn't create another anthem like "Barracuda" -- they just don't. They write songs with titles like "WTF" (Red Velvet Car, 2010) and pass over performing their searing hit "Never" (which has nearly 1 million plays on YouTube). Ann Wilson no longer wails on seminal ballad "Alone" but plays it slowed and acoustic every time. With a voice like that, and considering Nancy's hair-whipping guitar playing, you want them so badly to just let it fly.
That said, Ann's voice is still disarmingly cutting as it once was -- a miracle in itself. When these sisters perform their hits, you realize why they have had a career spanning 14 studio albums and nearly a dozen chart-toppers. They put on a fantastic live show that reminds us all what rock and roll used to feel like. They don't call it classic for nothing.
Personal bias: A dream bill for a girl who grew up on '80s MTV, drives a muscle car, and loves badass rock chicks. Joan Jett, you are a confuser to straight girls everywhere.
The crowd: Doing a superb job of remembering the good ol' days.
Random notebook dump: If Joan and Heart did a duet now, I think it would implode the rock universe or open some sort of portal back to the '70s. .
Overheard: "Joan's band looks like they've been around the block a few times and back, and then around again."
Heart set list:
What About Love
Even it Up
Good Old America
Crazy on You
Encore: Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin cover)
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