Heart / Joan Jett / Cheap Trick (concert review)

Heart / Joan Jett & the Blackhearts / Cheap Trick – Klipsch Music Center, IN,  7/17/16 (review)

Heart headlines a stellar lineup that defies time

The bands on the Rock Hall Three For All tour have several things in common.  The obvious one is that they have all recently been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  But, there’s another, less apparent reason – until you actually see them in concert.  All three acts play with an energy that few artists, no matter what their age, are capable of.

Cheap Trick took the stage promptly at 6:45pm with “Hello There,” asking the musical question “are you ready to rock?”  Their 60-minute set contained a healthy dose of tracks from their multi-platinum, live At Budokan set, all played at maximum volume.  Robin Zander’s voice is still amazing, especially on their hit ballad, “The Flame” – how can he still hit those high notes?  A spirited version of the Move song “California Man” was a highlight.   An odd choice was “I’m Waiting For the Man,” originally done by Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground, with bassist Tom Petersson on vocals.  Their set closed with the trifecta of “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender.” They left the stage with  “Goodnight,” giving guitarist Rick Nielsen a chance to bring out his five-neck guitar.

Joan Jett came out in a purple-sparkled outfit and rocked another solid hour.  Highlights were Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” her only #1 hit, “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” and her cover of Tommy James’ “Crimson & Clover.”  She acknowledged her Runaways’ roots with “Cherry Bomb” and the band’s first single, “You Drive Me Wild.”  The “Blackhearts” all looked young enough to be her own kids, and played with a youthful vigor.  “I Hate Myself For Loving You” is a great song that radio has forgotten.  And, leave it to Jett to provide the surprisingly poignant moment of the night – a cover of  Sly Stone’s “Everyday People” – a plea for everyone to just get along.

Heart took the stage with “Wild Child,” which builds in intensity and makes a great show opener.  The band did an excellent job of balancing the 70’s classic rockers like “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You” with 80’s ballads like “What About Love” and “These Dreams,” which featured Nancy Wilson on vocals and mandolin. Two new songs showed off the band’s continued versatility – “Two,” a light ballad written by R&B sensation Ne-Yo, and “Beautiful Broken,” a fierce rocker, which sounded particularly good in a live setting.   Album cuts like “Bebe Le Strange” and “Kick it Out” kept the die-hard fans happy.  “Straight On” was surprisingly funky while “Barracuda” was played at a slow, menacing tempo.

The real show-stopper was “Alone.”  With light keyboards and guitar (from Nancy), the lights dimmed, focusing everything on Ann as she belted out this heartfelt number.  There are very few artists that are capable of evoking this kind of raw emotion in a large concert setting – it was truly a moment full of chills.

After hitting all their personal high points during their set, Heart actually saved the best for last – a riveting performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” – again reminding everyone that Ann Wilson is THAT good.  It left the crowd buzzing on their way to their cars.

Rarely does a triple bill deliver such impressive performances – Rock Hall Three For All is a tour you definitely need to catch this summer.  —Tony Peters