Heart and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts made their final 2015 tour stop together a mostly memorable one, cranking out driving rock hits for a happily nostalgic crowd at Van Andel Arena. (Review, photo gallery)
As Ann Wilson put it on Saturday night, midway through Heart’s set in front of several thousand gleeful fans at Van Andel Arena, “In the ’70s, there weren’t really any women in rock ‘n’ roll. Women were in the basement and the garage trying to get it right.”
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So, there’s little doubting the impact that highly successful female-fronted rock bands such as Heart and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts have since had on generations of artists who’ve followed them.
And it’s also apropos that these two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts would be paired together on a national tour that made a stop Saturday in Grand Rapids, their final night together.
For Grand Rapids singer and guitarist Robin Spring, a member of acoustic classic rock’s The Trace Duo, Heart was a true influence on her development as a musician, from the way the band rocked to the way they mastered harmony vocals.
“In a male-dominated field, female rockers like Ann and Nancy Wilson are an inspiration. They write songs from a female perspective that resonate with women,” Spring told Local Spins.
“Ann has the most amazing rock voice of all time and still does. Nancy plays a mean guitar, and that is so helpful for young women to witness. Girls need positive role models. I have always gravitated toward female-fronted bands, especially ones that feature women guitar players.”
A CAVALCADE OF HITS FROM ‘MAGIC MAN’ TO ‘BARRACUDA’
Plenty of fans of both sexes on Saturday celebrated Heart’s success as unassailable hit-makers — from “Magic Man” (1976) which kicked off the evening, to “Crazy On You” (1976) and “Barracuda” (1977), which wrapped up the band’s main set as the highlight of the group’s performance (with Nancy Wilson finally showing off her guitar chops). The band even covered Led Zeppelin during the encore, launching first into “Immigrant Song.”
And as “amazing” as Ann Wilson’s voice still seems to be at age 64 (though it certainly could have been cranked a bit higher in the sound mix) and as happy as the band made its wistful fans feel with crisp, enthused renditions of favorites like “Heartless,” “Kick It Out” and “What About Love,” Jett and her bandmates may have provided the evening’s most intriguing, most energizing moments.
Jett’s hour-long set of punk-fueled anthems (including the Gary Glitter cover “Do You Wannna Touch Me” and The Runaways’ “You Drive Me Wild”) oozed a primal energy that hasn’t ebbed over the years, with the band unleashing aggressive, powerful riffs over no-frills lyrics that the crowd couldn’t help but repeat with vigor.
STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
The wonderfully raspy singer-guitarist’s set was all black leather and fist-pumping fun, whether cranking out a relatively new tune (2013’s “TMI”) or hammering home crowd favorites such as her signature “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the band’s classic cover of Tommy James & The Shondells “Crimson & Clover,” and 1987’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Both bands proved to be incredibly proficient and spirited in giving fans what they came to see and hear.
Inevitably, there will come a time when the rock era’s venerable music icons — from The Rolling Stones to Paul McCartney to Aerosmith — will have to pack away their amps and call it a day, due to the physical rigors of this thing called rock ‘n’ roll.
But until then, there’s nostalgic comfort that the baby boomer generation finds in embracing the influential music of that era, and in acknowledging the role that Heart and Joan Jett have played in inspiring other musicians.
“Heart has stood the test of time,” Spring said. “They show that women of all ages rock, and I’m glad about that.”
HEART, JOAN JETT: THE LOCAL SPINS PHOTO GALLERY BY ANTHONY NORKUS
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC