Better Than: Drunkenly singing Joan Jett’s songs in any public place that is not a Joan Jett concert.
“Hey New York! What the fuck is with this feedback?!”
Joan Jett became pretty angry early in her set. After blazing through two songs, Jett quickly made known what was fueling her ferocious energy. But her insistence on having the feedback fixed shows just how much perfection there is in her punk. Nearly 40 years after she co-founded the Runaways, everything from her neatly preserved snarl to her continuously on-point guitar playing feels as shiny and new as it did when she burst onto the ’70s rock ‘n’ roll scene as a teen.
Before her rant, Jett began the set with “TMI” from her recently released album Unvarnished. The intimate Santos Party House show was, after all, a record release party meant to celebrate the first album she’s released since 2006’s Sinner. The song is a simple little jolt of punk that feels like a spruced up version of “EMI” by the Sex Pistols, thanks to similar and rhyming titles alongside Jett’s Johnny Rotten-esque bite in her voice. Following up with “Cherry Bomb” turned out to be a comforting indicator that the show wouldn’t go without packing in her hits that are a blend of her infectiously popular originals and iconic, distinct covers. At that moment, Jett launched into a mini-marathon of her classics before seamlessly blending the old with the new. Doing so did more for the new songs in helping to make them feel as perfectly situated amongst some of mainstream music’s most recognizable riffs of “Bad Reputation” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).”
Because this is a Joan Jett album, the songs from Unvarnished, well-represented and received at the show, were immediately catchy. “Soulmates to Strangers” and single “Any Weather” were especially karaoke and radio friendly with their immediately memorizable lyrics. By the time she reached the coda of each, the audience had not only been pretty much expected to have the chorus down but to be singing along.
With set closers “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Crimson and Clover,” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” Jett brought together some pretty defining ’80s singles that elicited appropriate enthusiasm from the sold out crowd. Since Jett plays by her own rules, those final tracks were not used as teases or bait for the encore. Instead, she returned to the stage to pump out newbie “Reality Mentality” and end with her cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”
When she took the time to introduce her band during the latter track, Jett insisted upon solidarity: “We are the Blackhearts.” And, with that, it was made clear how her sheen of punk rock perfection has remained unvarnished after all this time.
Critical Bias: I, quite frankly, really do love rock ‘n’ roll.
Random Notebook Dump: SO. MANY. FEDORAS.
Overheard: “Wait I thought “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” was a Britney Spears song?”
“Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”
“Soulmates to Strangers”
“Make It Back”
“You Drive Me Wild”
“Love Is Pain”
“Hard to Grow Up”
“The French Song”
“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”
“Crimson and Clover”
“I Hate Myself for Loving You”