Three Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame acts. Three Hall of Fame voices (four if you count each Wilson sister separately).
One entertaining evening of some of classic rock’s greatest hits.
Monday night at the USANA Amphitheatre, three of biggest names of rock-n-roll in the ’70s and ’80s – Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Heart – took the stage as part of their Rock And Roll Three For All summer tour.
The pride of Rockford, Illinois, Cheap Trick, the newest member of the Rock Hall, took the stage first, kicking off with “Hello There,” one of several songs on their set made popular by the Live At Budakon album. Robin Zander’s vocals were in great shape as the band played crowd favorites “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” “The Flame” and “Surrender” along with a few deeper cuts in “California Man,” “Big Eyes,” and allegedly the first time they’ve ever performed “Yeah Yeah” from their self-titled 1997 album.
The between-song banter, which mainly involved Zander and guitarist Rick Nielsen, sounded the least rehearsed of all three acts, though possibly because it was a Monday night and the tour only has about a dozen dates left, there was a hint of sluggishness by all the acts. Compared to past Cheap Trick shows, the band kept the talking to a minimum and concentrated mostly on the songs. Nielsen did sarcastically make note, however, of the typical bright sunset that opening bands face at USANA on the west facing stage. “We typically like playing with more sunlight, but I guess this will do,” he quipped.
Nielsen walked around all parts of the stage and threw as many guitar pics to people on stage this time as he did to the crowd. For those who haven’t been to a Cheap Trick concert, think literally handfuls of pics being tossed at a time. He still has a good arm – as far as I could tell, a pic flying past the 100 seat sections and landing in row D of the 200 section was the long-distance toss of the night. Nielsen again brought a small portion of his extensive guitar collection, playing a different axe on every song. The infamous five-neck guitar made a brief appearance at the end of the night during “Goodbye.” Overall, a great show by the hard-touring veteran band.
Joan Jett stuck mostly to her songs from the late ’70s and early ’80s when she dominated the radio and MTV with hits like “I Love Rock n Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Fake Friends” in addition to her songs with The Runaways, “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild.”
Jett, dressed in all black leather, provided the most straight-forward rock of the night with her four Blackhearts. Her voice is still strong, complete with many sneering “Oww’s” throughout. And she made it easy for most in the crowd to remember the early ’80s both through her music and the videos that played on the digital screen behind her during that showed Jett’s MTV years as well as clips from her 1987 movie with Michael J. Fox “Light of Day.”
The night’s headliner, Heart, also did not disappoint. Ann and Nancy Wilson and crew opened with “Wild Child” from 1990’s Brigade before launching into the classic “Magic Man.”
The two most commercially successful stages of the band’s career have been the rootsy-rock of the 1970s and the album-oriented rock and power ballads’ MTV era of the mid-1980s. Although there has been speculation among fans for years that the Wilsons’ preference is with the folk-rock sound of the ’70s, both eras were equally represented Monday.
The familiar guitar riffs of “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda” rang throughout the amphitheater while the equally rockin’ “Even It Up” also made the set list. And while the band dove into their ’80s hits such as “What About Love,” “These Dreams” and “Alone,” those songs were rearranged to mostly stripped down, acoustic versions including Nancy Wilson playing mandolin for “These Dreams” and Ann relying mostly on her voice for “Alone,” which if you’re Ann Wilson is all you really need.
A song which was probably the least known to the audience but ended up being one of the best of the night for Heart was when Nancy Wilson took over lead vocals for a powerful cover of Ne-Yo’s “Two.”
Still, as good as Nancy’s vocals were, it was the soaring vocals of sister Ann that stole the show. She put those vocal cords on full display during the encore during covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and “Stairway to Heaven,” delivering the same chills she did at the Kennedy Center a couple of years ago, performing in front of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
Overall, a great night of rock from three legendary acts who haven’t lost much of a step in 40 years of performing.