Local hellraiser, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and punk rock legend Joan Jett rocked Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre in Nassau County’s Eisenhower Park Aug. 22, delivering a passionate, high-octane performance with The Blackhearts spanning her four-decade career as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and all-around rebel.
Presented by WCBS-FM 101.1’s annual “Saturday In The Park” music series, the free concert drew an estimated 22,000 fans—with many packing the surrounding parkland atop blankets and lawn chairs or just simply dancing in place along to hit after hit. It was so crowded, in fact, that parks employees had already closed off access to the outside lakeside theater’s main section with fencing by Jett’s 7:30 p.m. start time, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands of fans rocking out to her music in adjacent fields and lots.
Jett, clad in a black leather jacket and strumming her infamous signature white Gibson Melody Maker in front of her band’s giant black heart-shaped logo, kicked off the gig with a fiery “Bad Reputation” from her 1980 self-titled debut (re-issued as Bad Reputation in 1981), sparking a chorus of cheers and applause that continued throughout the night.
An explosive “Cherry Bomb” was next—the supercharged bullet from Jett’s former all-female supergroup The Runaways’ self-titled 1976 debut.
“Hi everybody!” she waved to the roaring audience afterward, shedding her skins. “All you out there—hey! Long Island, we’re The Blackhearts. It’s good to be here.
“Need to know—I think I know the answer—but do we got any singers out there?” Jett asked, to resounding cheers.
“Okie I hope so. How ’bout some dancers, we got some of them?” she inquired, again to an avalanche of applause and cheers.
“Beautiful. All right, don’t be shy here. Just, show it off!” Jett shouted.
“This first song’s easy, two words, that’s it,” she added as her bandmates led the audience on a call-and-response singalong “Yeah, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah” intro to Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” included on Jett’s 1980 debut.
Jett’s vocals were crisp and clear and her guitar was vicious. Dubbed “The Godmother Of Punk” by the music press, she hopped about the stage during guitar breaks, periodically strutting along its edges and smiling out at an equally boppin’ and smiling crowd. The Blackhearts—drummer Thommy Price, guitarist Dougie Needles, bassist Hal B. Selzer and Jett’s longtime songwriting and business partner, collaborator, producer and keyboardist Kenny Laguna [Thanks, reader Rob!]—absolutely killed it, playing the more-than-two-hour show with an intensity and ferocity that compelled thousands to uncontrollably stand up, dance, shake, and overall just rock out.
Their set list was all-encompassing, comprised of tracks encapsulating her entire career—resurrected gems from her time with The Runaways and early solo career all the way up to her latest firebomb with The Blackhearts, 2013’s Unvarnished.
There were covers as well as cult favorites—such as “Light Of Day,” a Bruce Springsteeen-penned number originally performed by Jett and Michael J. Fox with their band The Barbusters in the 1987 film of the same name—and another Runaways song, introduced by Jett as “actually the very first song I ever wrote,” the bluesy “You Drive Me Wild.”
Among the aforementioned [from what I recall]: “Love Is Pain,” from 1982’s I Love Rock ’n Roll, and Unvarnished’s “TMI,” “Soulmates to Strangers,” “Any Weather,” “Fragile,” “Hard To Grow Up” and “Make It Back”—the latter song inspired by the resilience Jett witnessed among residents in her hometown of Long Beach following the devastating aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. [Check out the full crowd-sourced set list at setlist.fm.]
Legions of fans across myriad age groups sang out in rabid chorus during standout favorites “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (a cover of The Arrows’ classic that Jett made famous), the slow-burning Roman Candle “Crimson & Clover” (repossessed by Jett from Tommy James & The Shondells) and the infectious jaded-romantic anthem “I Hate Myself For Loving You” (which featured an extended call-and-response singalong with the audience).
“Thank you so much Long Island for coming and hanging out with us today,” she told the roaring crowd just before ending the number. “This has really been special. Really special. We’re The Blackhearts. Thank you.”
Jett closed the stellar night with Unvarnished’s “Different”—a track she performed with fellow “bad reputation” singer/twerker Miley Cyrus in May to raise money for her nonprofit The Hippie Foundation, which supports LGBT youth [Watch It Here]—Johnny O’Keefe & The Dee Jays cover “Real Wild Child (Wild One),” from 1998’s Flashback, and Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” off her cleverly named 1983 album Album.
The East Meadow, NY concert was the latest on Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ current North American tour, tearing it up on select stops as openers for The Who. [Read A Review Of The Who Rocking Nassau Coliseum Here]
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts are must-see live. This local high priestess of punk embodies all the fire, fury and attitude that defines the heart and soul of pure rock and roll.
Proclaim it loud: All hail, Joan Jett!
For more information about Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ tour, merchandise and music, check out: joanjett.com.