Concert review by JD Alvarez
The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce opened its 23rd annual Taste of Newport culinary festival on September 16th, 2011 with featured artist Joan Marie Larkin. She is better known to us all as Joan Jett with her world-famous Blackhearts. They were the featured act on opening night of the festival. The draw is that in her 30 plus years as a punk and rock icon, New York-based Joan Jett holds eight gold and platinum albums and nine Top 40 singles. This history was all chronicled in last years biographical feature film “The Runaways.”
As for the crowd, it was somewhat reflective of the OC. It was clear that most came for the fine food that has been the draw for the 22 previous years. This year was no different, the smell of the different foods in the air was fantastic. The prices were surprising reasonable by anyone’s standards, especially Newport Beach. That being said, the crowd was what it was. People from neighboring communities that came to taste the cuisine and just have a good time. There was a multi- generational and multi ethnic showing, it was simply a very good food festival.
That all being said, I was there to review a concert versus a culinary festival. If I was only doing that, I would have given it a very enthusiastic thumbs up. Since I wasn’t there to do that, I had to prepare for the show. At first glance, I had a concern about the crowd. They were there having a great time, but the energy a crowd brings to this type of concert was my concern. It can easily be said that most of the crowd was dressed as if they were auditioning for the Real Housewives of the OC versus going a Joan Jett concert. There were some punk rockers and legitimate Blackheart fans scattered among the capacity crowd. For the avid concert goer, it was very evident there was a lack of Sex Pistols or X t-shirts. Instead, what was more notable was that there were way too many Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Coach products floating around. I didn’t think we would see an out of control mosh-pit. The feel of a punk rock concert just wasn’t in the air.
The show started, Strangelove took the stage. Strangelove is a Depeche Mode tribute band. They had a surprisingly good sound, and the lead singer had a very distinctive voice. His vocal performance was very reminiscent of Dave Gahan. To that extent, it was a very good display of what tribute covers should sound like. Unfortunately, that is where the comparison stops. Their stage show was lacking, and without the light and video presentation you would see at a DM show, it was less than a complete tribute. Overall, as an opening act, they were entertaining enough.
Strangelove was followed by Blackheart Records artist Kate Crash. That was an interesting show to say the least. They are best compared to a very 70’s psuedo glam rock, David Bowie looking, want-to-be version of a Nina Hagan tribute band that had breakfast with Pizzicato Five and Iggy Pop. Which means, once you heard their first three songs, you pretty much caught their act. I could see the allure, the first three songs were cute and had a good sound. However, the novelty wore off quickly. The least entertaining aspect of their performance was their lack of a drummer. This was acknowledged by the band as they gave props to their sound guy that was playing a drum track and other “beats” for them. After a while, you didn’t know what was live and what was Memorex. Unfortunately, the show became redundant and their attempt to be the Spiders from Mars became a little over the top. I give them an “A” for effort, but if the show wasn’t part of the ticket price to get in, I think we would have seen an impromptu mosh-pit. Fortunately, that show was finally over and it was time for the featured act.
It was a capacity house that rolled in to see the iconic Queen of rock. As soon as Jett took the stage, she seemed to have some technical issues with her mic, but Jett and her Blackhearts took in stride and before you knew it, they were opening with Bad Reputation. Surprisingly the 50 and 60’something concert goers came to life. The Blackheart fans and other punkers managed to find their way closer to the stage and lead the way with their screams. Despite any concerns I had about the energy of the crowd, Jett displayed a grace about her and belted out a voice that was so incredibly strong, she brought the place to life. She followed with the Runaways classic, Cherry Bomb. This too, brought even more cheers and even a sing-a-long by the crowd. Jett displayed an unbelievable story telling ability. Obviously in her own style, but very similar to how fellow rocker and storyteller Bruce Springsteen can hypnotize his audience with his voice, and stories.
Joan and her Blackhearts played other Runaways tunes, such as I Love Playin’ With Fire, Fetish and Fake Friends, which was kind of funny when you saw some of the looks from the crowd. They played her namesake and Blackheart favorite, I Hate Myself For Loving You. The crowd now at its loudest, grew even more intense when Jett went into her mega hits, Do You Wanna Touch Me, the Tommy James and the Shondells classic Crimson and Clover and their monster hit cover of the Arrows tune; I Love Rock n’ Roll.
It is amazing how an artist of this caliber can have such command over a crowd. It was her overall showmanship and great voice that captivated the audience. Jett closed with a lively version of Everyday People. In the end, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts lived up to their billing, and more. If you want to see Rock n’ Roll the way it was meant to be done, check out Joan Jett and the Blackhearts when they come to your neck of the woods. I am fairly certain you won’t be disappointed.
For more information on Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, their tour and all their is to know about the band, go to joanjett.com, blackheart.com or go to their social media pages on FaceBook and Twitter. Their music can also be found on iTunes and YouTube.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts features: Joan Jett (Vocals / Guitar)
Dougie Needles (lead guitar), A.C. Slade (Bass) and Thommy Price (Drums)