Heart, Joan Jett use clever mix of covers, deep cuts and hits to thrill Tampa

Getting wet was well worth it.


On Saturday, Tampa’s packed MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre (and soggy, rained-on lawn) played host to two of the biggest and most successful female-led rock and roll bands of all-time — newly-reunited hard rock heavyweight Heart and gritty, glam and punk-inspired rock outfit, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Jett, now 60 years old, hasn’t lost any of her fiery onstage stamina or her edge. Delivering a solid, hour-long set amid thick, soupy Florida humidity isn’t easy, but doing so in skin-tight black clothing deserves a medal of some sort. The petite veteran bandleader — dressed for action sporting black platform boots, her familiar tank top and tight pants — wasted no time at all in getting into it.

Editor’s note: Photography was not allowed at this show.

Ripping into a razor-sharp version of “Victim of Circumstance” from her 1981 breakthrough album I Love Rock 'n Roll to kick things off, Jett’s snarling vocals were in strong form, and her newest iteration of The Blackhearts more than amply provided attitude and firepower to back her. The problem was the sound and amplification; what initially came across as a faraway, faint call eventually got brawnier and beefier. By the third of fourth number, Jett and her band sounded the way they were intended to; bold, brash and boisterous. 

Delving back the catalog of her first band — the 1970s hard-rock bad girl act The Runaways — Jett delivered sizzling versions of the band’s most familiar tune, “Cherry Bomb,” as well as a snarling version of “You Drive Me Wild,” a song Jett announced was the first song she’d ever written. Sporting an unkempt but stylish black mop of hair and slinging a gorgeous red Gretsch guitar, Jett has a way of removing any gender stereotypes from her showmanship. Put her up against any eager, enthusiastic male performer and, time after time, my money is on Jett to tough it out to the bitter end. 

A compact set that flew by all-too-fast featured Jett’s familiar hits as well as some unexpected surprises. “Fresh Start,” Jett’s most recent single written for last year’s feature-length documentary about her sounded, well, fresh, and inspired. Its punk-pop strains went toe-to-toe with more established numbers like “Bad Reputation” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” which both got the rambunctious crowd fired up. Of course, Jett’s signature song — a cover of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” (originally written and recorded by ‘70s British pop band The Arrows) — was the one that ramped up her set and got everyone on their feet. Still, it was her version of the Tommy James hit “Crimson and Clover” that became a venue-wide sing along and got the heartiest reaction. 

Closing with what she’s referred to in the past as her favorite song of all time, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” Jett left the rowdy crowd wanting more of her raunchy rock and roll. Dripping in sweat and looking like she could go another 10 rounds, Jett supplied the perfect intro to lead up to the evening’s headlining set. 


With a sea of yellow, blue and fuchsia lights beaming from the stage and bounding off the decorative pleated curtain at the rear of the expansive bandstand, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, the founders of Heart, appeared with their trusty five-piece band. After a fallout that drove a wedge between the siblings for a short time, the Wilsons have thankfully patched up their relationship much to the delight of the fans who filled every seat in the house. 

Getting things started with a deep album cut, “Rockin Heaven Down” from 1980’s Bébé le Strange album, the band tossed a bone to its many dedicated and most devout followers. Pristine sound was evident from the onset and really helped the exquisite backing harmonies.

Lead singer Ann Wilson is nothing short of a force of nature. Her towering, booming, bellowing voice is still as emotive and impressive as ever. Donning a short black dress with dragon prints on it and red stockings, it was hard to take focus away from the raven-haired performer. Sister Nancy was as visually stunning, however. Her long, blond curly locks and purple thigh-high suede boots were almost as impressive as the solid guitar work, both electric and acoustic, she provided all night. 

Serving as a retrospective career overview of sorts, the band worked its way through a variety of highlights from its long tenure and provided something for everyone in attendance throughout its 90-minute set. A faithful reading of one of its earliest hits, the FM rock radio staple “Magic Man,” instantly took the crowd back to another place and time and sounded every bit as mysterious and mystical in its hard-rock muscularity as ever. 

Throwing in some interesting cover versions also supported the notion that this was an aural look back at the Heart story. An eerily accurate take on “Your Move,” a song by British prog-pop band Yes and a tender, hushed version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” proved that this band is capable of so much. Taking vocal turns on the latter, Ann and Nancy introduced the ballad by saying that it was a song they sang together as a family in their younger years. 

Although the intention was good and the motivation was in the right place, a reading of the Motown classic “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (in an arrangement that more closely resembled Marvin Gaye’s take on the song) didn’t soar as high as the other covers. Cleverly segueing into their own 1978 hit “Straight On” from there, the blending was seamless and smart. Nonetheless, the thudding version of Grapevine seemed a little clunky. 

Mixing tunes from its many stages, the songs that seemed to receive the greatest and most welcomed responses were those from the Heart’s 1980s resurgence. The MTV-era hits “These Dreams,” “What About Love” and “Alone” were met with astounding reactions. Again, Ann’s infallible vocal prowess lifted the tunes to another stratosphere although, at times, the bombastic songs drenched in a pop music sheen seemed a bit dated and aged. 

The real highlight was an outstanding take on 1978’s transcendent, Pink Floyd-inspired “Mistral Wind.” Ann’s slow-burning and increasingly powerful vocals stole the show during this reading of the epic tune. Heart’s versatility was on glowing display all night, not only during its ballads and hard rockers but, on this one number, the very thing that sets the band apart from its contemporaries was evident.  A jaw-dropping version of the Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway to Heaven” kicked off an encore that ended with the band’s own fierce rocker “Barracuda.” The curtain call helped remind the crowd that, sure the band can tackle covers finely but the real strength of Heart is in its own brand of rock and roll. That’s what’s made them one of the most enduring and popular bands to emerge in the ‘70s as well as one of the few who can still pack a venue to capacity… and that’s still impressive as hell. 

Setlists

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Victim of Circumstance
Cherry Bomb
Do You Wanna Touch
Bad Reputation
You Drive Me Wild
Light of Day
Fake Friends
Love is Pain
Long Time
Love is All Around
Fresh Start
I Love Rock ‘n Roll
Crimson & Clover
I Hate Myself for Loving You
Real Wild Child
Everyday People

Heart

Rockin Heaven Down
Magic Man
Love Alive
Your Move
I Heard it Through the Grapevine/Straight On
The Boxer
These Dreams
Dog & Butterfly
Little Queen
Even it Up
What About Love
Mistral Wind
Crazy on You


Stairway to Heaven
Alone
Barracuda

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About The Author

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
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