To be fair, though, I can see why some have yet to submit to the Cult of Joan, as she truly is best live, and sounds remarkably overproduced, poppy and clean in the studio and thus, on the air. But live, baby, live, Joan is raw, dirty, edgy and sexier than ever. She is still, truly one of the best performers I've seen (which says a lot) and she keeps improving each time. She looks and sounds better now than when I first saw her, almost 20 years ago. That sexy mix of punk, classic rock, pop and misfit cover tunes still blows me away and satisfies every crowd like you wouldn't believe.
If you haven't guessed by now, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts rule! I should know, with last night's HOBA show, I've seen them four times in concert and every show is better than the last. Today I'll be quitting my ridiculous day job and Michelle and I are going to follow Joan around the country. We can't figure out the best name for this Jett version of the "Deadhead" experience. I suggested "Blackheads" and Michelle said "What? No!", so we're at square one.
What's that? Oh, yeah, I did say "Michelle"... yes, as in "Michelle Bond"... and I did say "House of Blues Anaheim", didn't I? I know what you're thinking, and you're right. I've heard tell that the second I completed the credit card purchase online for this show, a dark cloud appeared over the House of Blues and lightening began to strike wildly. As Michelle and I made our short walk from Tortilla Joe's to the House of Blues three security guards' eyes widened in horror, one screamed "It's back!" (meaning me), one fainted and the third hopped the fence and ran straight up the Matterhorn. But no, I was really good this time. I limited my booze consumption quite well, and the worst I had to worry about was finding myself standing on the apex of the roof of the HOB, declaring myself (at the top of my hairy, sweaty lungs) a "golden god", then managing a perfect somersault dive into the (unfortunately empty) fountain in the middle of Downtown Disney. Hey, that's an improvement, right? Step Zero at least?
No? Moving on.
We boggarted our now familiar spot on the stairs (having again foregone chairs). I was dripping with wry wit and... sweat. Michelle noticed the latter more than the former. Luckily as the opening band, Throwrag took the stage, something more hideous even than me reared its head. Three Rock-a-Billy/ Punkers took to the drums, bass and lead guitar, complete with pompadours and sideburns that Rapunzel could climb. Then, appearing in a red, polyester boating suit, complete with Captain's Hat and white seafaring peacoat came the singer. Before we could shout "Hey, Captain! Where's Tennille?" the quartet ripped into a crazed hybrid of Southern California Hardcore, Desert Rock-A-Billy, surf guitar and near-comical doo-wop. And, amazingly, they weren't bad. Uh... to me, that is. See, I grew up on this stuff... and Metal... and Classical... and Classic Rock... and Opera... and Disco... and... Look, folks, I'm an Audiophile, okay. Michelle on the other hand... Well, she looked like she was at a Rod McKuen Poetry Recital without ear muffs!
So I did what any dear friend would do, I tried to cheer her up. Earlier I had told her about HOBA's designation as the "Bad Dancing Capitol of the World". Naturally, I grabbed my foot, pulled it up to the small of my back and hopped around in a circle with a goofy smile until she laughed. But then the three people behind me walked out saying "That Critic dude was right, this place eats!". My shouts of "That was me, that was me, this was just a demo!" were drowned out by Throwrag's increasing jams.
Even as the show progressed, the singer devolved, first slinging his microphone around Daltrey-style to the point that it flew off the wire and almost killed someone, then retrieving said mic, becoming overjoyed and performing fellatio upon it (no, I'm not kidding), and finally stripping down to his red polyester boating pants and pretending to be a submarine periscope. I love this guy... if for no other reason than that I looked slightly cooler than I otherwise would have in my sweat-ringed Pink Floyd Pig T-Shirt. In short, the band was good for what they did, which was a profanity-laced, driving hard core with some excellent guitar work and a sense of humor about everything they did. YYY
Naturally, the reason we both showed up was Joan Jett. However, as the second act was The Eagles of Death Metal I was happy as Calvin Coolidge's quote collector that I was about to see Josh Homme's other band (or rather, one of his many other bands). But as the Eagles of Death Metal staggered onstage, I realized (very slowly, as with most of my epiphanies) that Josh Homme wasn't with them. Some other clown was on the drums. Oh, he was a proficient clown, yes, but, I wanted to hear the drums of my favorite Kyuss guitarist (if only for Novelty). Trying to put in words why The Eagles of Death Metal (and thus their goose-stepping singer/ guitarist Jesse Hughes) is like trying to explain why I want to see "Oh, Yeah! The Kool-Aid Man" Assimilated by the Borg. In short, not everyone is going to get the appeal.
EODM is comprised (like their Desert Sessions brethren) of very fine musicians playing in their own sandbox and having their wicked way with music. The band is, to a great extent, a tongue-in-cheek joke, but one played by masters of their craft. It's almost like being told a knock-knock joke by a Professor of English Literature. Those who get it will roll, those who don't... will walk. Their fun mix of Biker Bar Southern Rock and dark near-grindcore crunching guitars gave the impression of what "The Eagles" might sound like if performing "Death Metal". Jesse's tattoo sleeves, white sleeveless shirt, bushy mustache, slicked back hair and bushy mustache completed that part of the package. Rounding out the strange imagery was a lead guitarist who looked like "Larry 'Bud' Melman" with the same glasses (and age) but with a white Mohawk, solid black clothes and a Soaring Flying V. The best part was that The Eagles of Death Metal weren't merely a Comedic Punch Line like "The Darkness" but could actually play... but they played what they wanted... only. Kick ass! YYY1/2
Michelle punched me in the stomach about then, mostly because I asked her to. It's an Ab-Work thing... some of you will understand. Shortly after that a dude with overdeveloped lats stood right in front of us, and Michelle decided she wanted to punch him in the back. Instead, I offered my own back... She declined because it was sweaty. Did I mention my new nickname is "Aquaman"? Actually, that's the good nickname... I also get "Soggy", "The Sponge", "Super-Soaker", "Rainman" and "Sweathog". Yep... and we work out together too. I often get that look like you might see on Teenwolf when ol' MJF goes all Wolfy on the Basketball Court and everyone's horrified. About that point, I actually asked "Why do you still hang out with me?" She told me it's because I loan her my iPod. I never was sure. I'll try not to sweat on the headphones.
Speaking of Sweat, one human being neither of us would mind dripping sweat on us is one Joan Jett. Man, if "Wetter is Better", Joan gets the blue ribbon... her or her female fans. Joan looks marvelous. Fit, pretty, sexy. Incredible. She's still got that Zillion dollar smile and that giga-shadow sneer that makes Elvis' look like a mere pout. She bounced out with her guitar hanging low, past her hips in leather pants and a gleaming vinyl camisole (open at the top... I was peeking like a man from Peaking!). By the end of the second song, her milk-white skin was just as shiny as the black top. She flicked and splashed everywhere in a manner both gruff and strangely attractive.
What a show this was! The distorted guitars of her quartet were matched only by the drum-n-bass rhythm section. Joan is still the Cover Tune Queen. After a rousing opening with (of course) "Bad Reputation", the band rocked their way through "Cherry Bomb" (a tribute to Runaways drummer Sandy West who passed away only 18 days prior).
One thing I noticed was that for the most part Joan's set list was close to the same one I've heard from her various times over the (now four) concerts, and one live DVD. Gary Glitter's "Do you want to Touch Me (Oh Yeah)", Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover" (never sounding sexier than here!!!) the new (hot) classic "Androgynous" and (as if there was ever any doubt) "I Love Rock and Roll" all filled up the set list. Amazingly, the Blackhearts made this feel not only fresh to the audience, but seemed to love playing these great songs every night. From my perspective, this was like a real-life mix disc playing some of our favorite songs with a heavy and raw edge and perfect timing. Better, really because Joan sounds so much better live than in the studio. Energy like hers should never be quelled. Hell, she could've solved the California Energy Crisis with just one show, man!
However, even with the welcome familiarity, Joan Jett isn't living in the past. Her new album Sinner (did anybody ever get Naked as an import???) was well represented here, and there was quite a lot of sexy representation going... well, both ways, especially as represented in her new single "ACDC". Speaking of "ACDC", Joan's loud rendition of Sly Stone's "Everyday People" still sounds like her "Dirty Deeds" cover as she rips into it. She should medley those two... Talk about going both ways, though!
Maintaining the hard rock and soloing, the Blackhearts pulled off an amazing and edgy "I Hate Myself for Loving You" along with the kick-ass "Light of Day". Here and elsewhere we were shown what a fine guitar player this veteran really is. Of course the punked-out version of "Love Is All Around" (the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme, not the Troggs' classic) was another fun guitar hopper that showcased the playful side of Jett. The Political side got its equal time with a new one called "Riddles", which is pretty damned timely, I must say.
The really sexy side of Joan Jett "came out" in not only "ACDC" but also "Fetish" (which... oh my GOD!) and "Naked"... Man, oh, man, the images in my head! Still, for pure Sex Appeal, her breathless vocals on "Do you want to Touch Me" and "Crimson and Clover" can't be beat with a six string!
But, in a literal sense, you could beat it with a guitar pick... especially one thrown into the crowd, caught by a friend of ours and delivered into the waiting, shaking hands of Michelle Bond as she overlooked it like Gollum to his PRECIOUS! "She Touched This!" Michelle exclaimed. I added that she also sweated on it. I meant that as a plus though... and Michelle took it as one.
As the night calmed down, we repeated the ancient, yet honorable "Adventures of Michelle and J.C." late night IHOP Dextoxification Clinic for Coffee and Pancakes. "Where should I keep this?", Michelle asked of the Pick.
I was about to respond that we could get a shadow box, a good display and maybe some soft lights to showcase the pick and ticket. But right then her face illuminated and she said "I KNOW!", and she put the pick into her bra with an "aaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
"What greater tribute could there possibly be?" I asked with a grin.
Michelle looked up, directly into my eyes without a trace of irony, sarcasm or humor and said "A LOT!"
Well shut my mouth! Actually the old jaw had fallen open, so I really needed help with that request.
Anyway, sailin' on, sailin' on! When I last saw Joan Jett and the Blackhearts back in 2004, I described her as being "In her prime". This is the absolute truth. She was amazing in the Runaways, killer in her most popular and brightly shining '80's, but I tell you, she's better than ever now. Joan Jett is in her prime at 46. She looks incredible and she sounds even better. This is not your MTV Joan Jett or your American Top 40 Joan Jett... this is the raw, growling, rasping, screaming, snarling Joan Jett who can STILL "turn the world on with her smile!" If you're looking for a sweet set of power ballads played by an aging has-been... apply elsewhere. If you want to see a grown up bad girl, now all woman, but still bad as hell... Joan Jett's your Grrrrl! Five Stars out of Five for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts... again. Truly she's the Queen of Rock and Roll, representing some great songs, and making even the covers all her own. Now, if you'll excuse me, Michelle and I have to trek to the Las Vegas House of Blues, where sweet Joan plays next. Then we're following every stop listed on JoanJett.com until our black hearts give out on us. Still... I guess we can't be "Blackheads"... what should it be, huh... JettHeads? Yeah... JettHeads. Oh. I've just been informed that no matter what we refer to ourselves as... I'll still be "Aquaman". See you in the next pool!
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Dear Joan... I DAMN NEAR SAW you NAKED!