So, being from Cleveland it’s a little disheartening when a tour labeled the “Rock Hall Three for All,” featuring three recently-inducted bands, skips the hometown of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Do we let that stop us? Hell no!
We pack up our cars and drive to our sister city two hours to the southeast to First Niagara Pavilion and partake in a killer three hour marathon of greatest hits from three amazing bands.
I love covering bands from my youth. It can be a double-edged sword sometimes because maybe…just maybe…the singers have lost the edge that made them famous in the oh-so-long-ago Carter administration. Can David Lee Roth execute the same kicks that he did in 1980? Probably not; at least not as many as he did back in those days. But when a band is still firing on all eight there’s nothing more magical. A case in point? Ann Wilson belting out Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” during their encore. Wow.
Cheap Trick took the stage at 6:45 and wound the crowd up with a killer set featuring all the hits from their heyday. Rick Nielsen, looking pretty spry for a 67-year old guitar player, tore it up throughout the set. Robin Zander still sounded great; his vocals were as strong as they were years ago and his stage energy was ever present. Tom Petersson, bassist, stayed silent at the back of the stage, plunking on his axe.
Obviously missing from the lineup was Bun E. Carlos, replaced on the tour (and probably forever) by Daxx Nielsen, Rick’s son. He’s a good drummer in his own right, but Bun E.’s absence is something that the band’s true fans have to understand as a casualty of rockonomics. But for an outfit that’s almost 45 years old, it’s amazing to have three of four original members still playing together.
Joan Jett led her Blackhearts into the second hour of music. Joan’s always had great stage presence and the venue really came to life with her fourteen-song set. She opened with “Bad Reputation” and then segued into a raucous Runaways’ cover of “Cherry Bomb.” Newer track “TMI” had a nostalgic tinge and sounded a lot like mid-80s Blackheart material. Cleveland favorite, the Bruce Springsteen-penned “Light of Day” brought back memories to anyone who may have remembered the film of the same name in which she co-starred with Michael J. Fox and was lensed here in the Cleveland area back in 1986. Perennial faves such as “Crimson and Clover,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” closed out the set. They encored with Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”
The Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, brought their most current incarnation of their band to the stage as the headliners. Heart, touring off an on since the early 1970s, has undergone personnel changes and, at one point, Nancy left the band for awhile to raise a family. Getting back together several years ago, they’ve managed to regain some of that early-career lightning.
Sadly, an hour show can only present so many of their greatest hits. Eschewing such classics as “Dreamboat Annie” and “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You,” the Wilsons elected to mix in a cut from their new album “Beautiful Broken,” which was still very reminiscent of classic Heart. “Barracuda” and “Alone” sounded great, even acknowledging that Ann is approaching her mid sixties. “Crazy On You” and “These Dreams” rounded out what was a very good mix of old-school Heart tunes.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was their cover of “Stairway to Heaven.” During their Kennedy Center LZ tribute, it was a version that made even Robert Plant shed a tear. Ann was amazing in what is an incredibly-difficult song to master. She belted out the tune with perfect timing and the backup band, no matter what the incarnation, was just as good.
Note: No gallery images exist for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts as the publicist did not credential any photographers for Joan’s portion of the show.