Joan Still ‘Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll’ While Heart Tries To Find the ‘Magic, Man’

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Joan Still ‘Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll’ While Heart Tries To Find the ‘Magic, Man’
Nancy Wilson (L) and Ann Wilson of Heart on stage (Photo: Jamie McCarthy)

Two of rock’s most decorated female-led acts closed out this year’s Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater concert season with both a bang and a whimper, depending on which portion of the performances one referred to.

Dubbed Love Alive, headliners Ann and Nancy Wilson, with their bandmates in Heart, teamed up with punk pioneer Joan Jett, who brought the Blackhearts along for the trek, on Thursday, September 26 in a loud, commanding, collaboration that produced noticeably differing results.

Jett’s set launched with the explanatory “Victim of Circumstance,” an appropriate choice considering her opening slot status on the popular tour. “Cherry Bomb,” originally recorded by Jett’s first band, The Runaways, followed, before diving into the infectious sing-along “Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah),” completing a flawless opening trifecta selection by the multi-talented singer-songwriter.

Joan Jett on stage (Photo: Kevin Mazur)

The frenetic “Bad Reputation” generated a beautiful contrast between Jett’s smooth singing and crunchy guitar playing in one of her most cherished tunes while the perennial enjoyable anthem “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” predictably created a surge of recording cell phones in the arena. Longtime Blackhearts drummer Thommy Price provided a welcome sprinkling of stories, Brooklyn accent and all, from the group’s career throughout the 60-minute set, including a whimsical tale of the cutthroat music business that ushered in the reflective “Fake Friends,” off Jett’s amusingly-titled third album, Album.

The multi-layered Tommy James and the Shondells cover “Crimson and Clover,” arguably superior to the competent original, was the clear climax of the evening. An amalgamation of crisp vocals and tight musicianship fashioned a finished product that sounded shockingly identical to the band’s 1981 studio recording.

The Wilson sisters have been an undeniable force to be reckoned with since forming Heart nearly 50 years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. While the group has seen its share of lineup changes over the decades, the two constants at its core have always been lead singer Ann and guitarist Nancy. Initially influenced by folk artists of the ’60s, the outfit eventually morphed into something heavier, combining elements of hard rock and pop metal to create their signature sound.

Love Alive Tour featuring Heart and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Although Heart has a vast number of hits in its expansive catalogue, it’s not a secret that the Wilsons aren’t as fond of their commercially successful glammed-up heyday as their fans are. This was evident on several of their ’80s power ballads as the band significantly altered the arrangements on “These Dreams,” “What About Love,” and “Alone.” It’s a common practice that long in the tooth artists sometimes employ to breathe new life into classic songs and it’s perfectly acceptable when used sparingly. But omitting the power chords and full amplitude of three of their most beloved chart-toppers was a clear misfire and took away the potency of the tracks.

Thankfully, “Crazy On You” was on point and showcased Ann’s powerful pipes nicely while “Your Move” proved to be a smart choice of a Yes cover that illustrated her folky tonality. But if there was a highlight of Heart’s slice of the night, it was undoubtedly Nancy’s virtuosic guitar work. She was an absolute joy to watch on the seductive “Magic Man” and shredded on closer “Barracuda,” the group’s emotionally charged rebuttal to the absurdity of the fabricated incestuous affair between the siblings made up by their record company in the ’70s. 

Despite Jett owning the evening, both bands surely brought something exceptional to the New York crowd. And for two acts as legendary as these, with a whopping 90 years of experience between them, they’re clearly doing something right. 

Heart setlist:

  1. Rockin Heaven Down
  2. Magic Man
  3. Love Alive
  4. Your Move
  5. I Heard It Through The Grapevine
  6. Straight On
  7. The Boxer
  8. These Dreams
  9. Dog & Butterfly
  10. Little Queen
  11. Even It Up
  12. What About Love
  13. Mistrial Wind
  14. Crazy On You
  15. Stairway To Heaven
  16. Alone
  17. Barracuda

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts setlist:

  1. Victim Of Circumstance
  2. Cherry Bomb
  3. Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)
  4. Bad Reputation
  5. You Drive Me Wild
  6. Light Of Day
  7. Fake Friends
  8. Love Is Pain
  9. Long Time
  10. Love Is All Around
  11. Fresh Start
  12. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
  13. Crimson And Clover
  14. I Hate Myself For Loving You
  15. Androgynous
  16. Everyday People