As we pulled our "concert van" out of the driveway on Thursday I began to get excited. There are a few reasons why that excited me, one was the fact that it had been stored all winter long which leads to a well deserved number two. It's interesting when I think to myself that number two should be number one but for it to be number one in importance would require number one to actually have happened before number two. Confused?
If you said "YES" to my question, don't worry I am confused as well by that (and I am the one that wrote it). The "concert van" is an enigma, it is a 1990 GMC, eight passenger van, and it has a little over 70,000 miles, and it was really owned by one person before us, so that in and of itself makes me quite happy. When the van leaves the extremely narrow garage it means that concert season is upon us and that is number two. The van means that we have at least four or more passengers because we can take other vehicles if there is less than four meaning we are going to have an incredibly good outing.
If you are asking me to "get to the point," it's coming in just a few lines I promise. The last time we had the van out with a large group to see Mötley Crüe, the fuel pump decided to not work when we stopped on the way home and this trip had me filled with trepidation. My great fear was for us to get to the venue safely and then after the show it wouldn't start, but it DID! Looking back to July of last year we took the same vehicle to a little music festival to see the Gin Blossoms, Kevin Costner and Modern West and Joan Jett at America's River Fest in Dubuque, Iowa with four of the same people that traveled with us in the concert van on March 21st, 2015 at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
We had a blast at that show, the two opening acts were incredible that night so traveling to Cedar Rapids was going to be fun, it had to be. On the night of March 21st, the show looked like it was going to be insane with Joan Jett as the opening act and Heart headlining. It's an interesting venue, we had great seats, not on the floor but elevated in movie theater type seats just a little off of the floor and they really were great seats. I was impressed by the helpful nature of the staff, they were friendly as well as attentive. Just as impressive is the fact that the show started precisely at 7:30 as it was posted. That in and of itself is worthy of a "BRAVO" because at many shows that isn't the case.
When Joan Jett and The Blackhearts came on stage it was to a raucous crowd, full of energy and rabid. Jett came out with that punk attitude (not meaning she is a punk, it means her roots are in punk rock) and as they pumped out "Bad Reputation" it was obvious that their energy level was off the charts. I love bands that do that, the come out to entertain and not just collect a paycheck. I really think that "Bad Reputation" truly is my favorite song of her vast catalog of music.
The set that they put on was phenomenal. Yes there were the compulsory songs like "I Love Rock and Roll" but she broke into her earliest roots with several "Runaways" songs. Jett wasn't afraid to play some less well-known songs and songs from her latest album. I like to watch the crowd just as much as I do the concerts and I saw people in their 60's jamming like it was 1975 to one of my latest favorite tracks called "TMI." I think that is what makes hard rock fans the best in any genre. I was talking to some people next to me and behind me that were older than me by a few years and they were talking about all of the shows they had been at in this venue, who the bands were and what kind things they did there, it was great.
While Jett did the song "Crimson and Clover" the Tommy James and the Shondells classic, the crowd made it a giant karaoke sing-a-long. That statement really isn't true, people sang during every song but they sang their hearts out for that song. Her set was so diverse that as I write this I literally hear "Crimson and Clover" in my head as I write this coupled with "TMI," and that is confusing.
What wasn't confusing is the deeply engrained punk rock in her music. I could feel bands like "The Clash" and the "Ramones" dripping from the lyrics and every note they performed. There really should be no surprise that there would an affinity for have as an influence as the Ramones, Jett is from New York City as were the Ramones, its natural. With that said Joan Jett and The Blackhearts don't pilfer from the catalog of music of the Ramones, it just has that feel.
What is incredible is how tight her band is and how her vocals sound like they haven't changed since that first "Runaways" release. It is remarkable that she hasn't damaged her voice but that's what professional musicians do, they protect their assets if you will. Her band is fun to watch, and they rock like they are in CBGB's, just performing and having a blast. That is contagious by the way, it truly is. As The Blackhearts fired up so did the crowd and they rocked just as hard as the band.
Joan Jett is the standard in which all bands should strive for. When I attended her performance of March 21st, 2015 I went with six other people and by the end of their set I realized I traveled to Cedar Rapids with a thousand or more people. Everyone there had a connection to The Blackearts, it was obvious. Through the music that Jett played and her influences began to percolate through the crowd, the power that she commands is stunning.
I went to see Joan Jett and The Blackhearts knowing what I was going to experience. I knew that she would have that gritty edge, and I knew that she was going to blow the roof off of the building but I didn't expect how many people fed off of her power and her zeal. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts not only were deserving of being honored by being selected to the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" she honored ever person in the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa by her performance. We may have to look at the schedule of the tour and decide whether or not we have to take the "concert van" to that one as well! Incredible show!