Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
August 11, 2010
The Pacific Amphitheater
The Show: Don't let anyone tell you rock is dead. And while you're at it, don't let anyone tell you the dinosaurs are dead either. Yes, Joan Jett is a dinosaur. But ancient reptile or not, she can fill the massive Pacific Amphitheater with screaming teenage girls, leather skinned women with sunken cheeks in biker jackets and weekend warriors alike.
Why? Because she sings songs about social misfits who refuse to be corralled into conforming to society's expectations. She also champions self-discovery and acceptance. It was a good thing when she first started in the 1970s and it's a good thing today. It's just too bad that Jett and her band, the Blackhearts, sang those boring-ass songs featuring her own brand of rock psychology for almost an hour and a half.
Opening the set with “Bad Reputation,” she managed to get the crowd on their feet quickly. Her voice sounded simultaneously coquettish, defiant and matronly and featured Jett's trademark rasp. She occasionally locked eyes with someone in the pit and flashed a winning smile. She spat, and she strummed.
And though she engaged the audience earnestly on songs such as “Do You Want to Touch Me,” by the middle of the set, she was losing the throng's attention. People had returned to their seats and girls all around the venue were chatting excitedly amongst themselves. It was one chugging guitar-driven song after the other, with many tunes featuring a 12 bar blues format.
Jett managed to win everyone back toward the end of the set, however, when she started playing the jams she is known around the world for: “I Love Rock 'n' Roll,” “ACDC” and the Runaway's song “Schooldays.” With the whole amphitheater on its feet once again, Jett demonstrated she is still and will always be an icon. The problem with icons (and iconoclasts for that matter) is over the decades, they have a tendency to both spawn and become cliches.
And matters aren't helped by the fact that the sound of Jett's music parallels other rock dinosaurs such as Kiss. Granted, Jett was among the early rock pioneers to show the world that girls can play a mean guitar and rock the casbah hard as any man, but why do I want to go see her today when Leslie Feist exists?
Jett and the Blackhearts were preceded by former Runaway Cherie Currie on whom the movie The Runaways was based. Svelte, with long blond hair and clad in leather, Currie's set was fairly brief. She closed with the rocker “Cherrie Bomb.” During the chorus, you could hear every girl in the seats singing along. As a bonus, former Guns 'N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum provided percussion. Though ancient like the rest of them, he has a style that is both powerful and full of finesse. Like a tap-dancing dinosaur.
The crowd: A representative cross section of society. Teenage girls and guys on dates, old gay men and women–some with trucker hats and bandanas. Families, as well as beautiful young ladies in cocktail dresses. Leopard-skin spandex was thankfully nowhere to be seen.
Overheard: “Where are you going? Come back! I love you,” yelled one young screaming mimi when Currie momentarily left the stage during the song “California Paradise.”