Photos by Caesar Carbajal
The problem with being Ann Wilson is that you have to sing like Ann Wilson. All. The. Time. And singing like Ann Wilson isn't easy, even if you are Ann Wilson. Sometimes your voice doesn't want to do what you want it to do, and other times it's stressed to where it doesn't sound quite right.
Unfortunately, that was the case with Heart last night at the old Gary. Heart, on tour to push their 16th album, Beautiful Broken, took the stage after Cheap Trick and Joan Jett had the remember-the-eighties crowd worked into a perimenopausal frenzy.
Fortunately, Nancy Wilson kicked out some fierce guitar, most fans didn't seem to notice and, even on her bad days, Ann Wilson still kicks ass. Heart, although not at the top of their game, seemed to score a direct hit in the hearts of their fans.
Of course, the overall vibe of the evening — 1984 made real again with three tremendous acts from the land of acid-washed jeans, the sweet smell of middle-class marijuana and black eyeliner — set the bands up for success and the crowd up for fantastic night. Cheap Trick peppered their one-hour set with their harsh edged pop vocals, energy that belies their age and their silver-spangled charm that took the crowd from 0 to — well, not 60, but a solid 50, at least — before turning the reigns over to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
Ah, Joan Jett. The reason I bought the ticket. Well, OK, technically, I didn't buy a ticket, but had I bought a ticket I would have bought it because of her. The bitch fucking rocked — and I mean rocked — the guitar. For those of you born after 1980 who got lost and are still reading this, Joan Jett was legendary. Women played nice with guitars —at least, mostly they did when they were mainstream. Joan Jett was a new creature for mainstream American rock.
So why don't we have any photos of her?
I don't know why we couldn't get permission to shoot her, but I have my suspicions, and it has to do with some of the asshole comments I heard last night.
"She has a pooch."
"She's getting older, isn't she?"
"Wow... uh, that's not flattering."
Only one of these comments came from a man. The other two came from women. And, I'm ashamed to admit, I had a similar one. I quashed it, but it was there. You don't overcome years of conditioning easily, I guess. I'm working on it.
So, yeah. Joan Jett in 2016 doesn't look like Joan Jett did in 1982. Neither do any of us. She still wails; she still had us all eating out of her hand last night.
That's it. That's as much as I'll discuss how she looks. I'm not going to discuss her wardrobe or her hair or whether she needs to have work done or her wrinkles or whatever else. Because I'm pretty sure she knows she isn't 22 anymore — she turned 58 last night, and Cheap Trick brought her a cake onstage and sang to her — and I'm also sure she doesn't give two fucks what we all think of her upper arms.
I will say it's a damn shame she wouldn't let us photograph her and I hope it's not about people making comments about her body instead of her talent, because we're the ones who need to change, Joan Jett — not you. You changed the game for girls with guitars.
Now, if we could focus on that instead of your midsection, we'd really be getting somewhere.