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Concert review: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at Peppermill Concert Hall

by on March 25, 2012

For the casual observer who only knows Joan Jett for her monster early ’80s chart-topper “I Love Rock & Roll” and maybe a few other hits of that era, the fact Jett and her band the Blackhearts were headlining the Peppermill Concert Hall in Wendover completely makes sense.

After all, casinos and state fairs are the realm of classic rockers and one-hit wonders, right? And while the plush confines of the Peppermill Concert Hall are certainly a bit sterile, especially as a setting for Jett’s gritty, punky brand of rock, the sold-out show Jett played Saturday night was far from a simple rehashing of past glories.

Yes, Jett delivered the hits over the course of a too-fast 80-minute, 18-song set. But fully half of the set was dedicated to either new, yet-to-be-recorded songs, tunes from the past few years that only the most dedicated of Jett fans have heard, or deep album cuts from her ’80s releases. The preponderance of non-classics is a credit to Jett and the fact she’s still writing aggressive, catchy anthems of the “love you/hate you/fuck you” variety. Some of the new tunes (“Hard to Grow Up,” “Reality Mentality”) worked better than others (the already stale, clunky “T.M.I.”), but I give Jett credit for following her muse, especially in the environment we were in.

Of course, people were there for the hits, and Jett and her rock-solid band didn’t disappoint at all on that front. The opening salvo of “Bad Reputation,” The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and “Light of Day” is the kind of concert-opening troika any band would die for. (A sidenote: “Light of Day” was the title of a flick Jett starred in with Michael J. Fox, as the brother/sister leaders of a Cleveland garage band. Jett is far more believable as a single-mom singer with rock & roll dreams and attitude problems than Fox is as a kickass guitar-slinger. Bruce Springsteen wrote the title tune, and while he’s performed it in concert, Jett’s version outdoes The Boss, hands down).

“Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)?” turned into a massive singalong, naturally, with Jett leading the crowd in echoing “Oh Yeah!s” Old favorites like “Victim of Circumstance,” “The French Song,” “Fake Friends” and “Love is Pain” had Jett reaching back to 1981’s I Love Rock and Roll album and 1983’s Album.

After the mid-show section of new tunes and catalog cuts, Jett got back to the monster songs that made her famous. “I Love Rock and Roll” led into a delightfully carnal version of “Crimson & Clover,” which led straight into the set-closing fist-pumping anthem “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”

With one quick encore, “AC/DC,” Jett and Co. were gone after just 80 minutes.

The show was definitely too short, but what we got was really good. And looking around the crowd, it was clear all aspects of Jett’s fan base were on hand. There were hipsters and punks who recognize Jett for the DIY pioneering force she is, a woman who started her own label, Blackheart Records, after being rejected by all the majors after going solo post-Runaways. There was a large contingent of lesbian fans who recognize her as an icon in that community. And there was a whole lot of classic-rock fans who just wanted to hear some of the tastiest American straightforward rock produced by a true unique voice.

And I would bet if you asked any of them, they could have gone for more music from Jett Saturday night.

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