One of the hottest tickets of this summer’s concert season is the Rock Hall Three for All, featuring not one, not two, but three Hall of Famers on one bill—Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Heart. The tour recently touched down in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, and played to a packed First Niagara Pavilion on a sultry July 21 night. But it was hard to tell which was hotter: Mother Nature or the scorching sets laid down by this trio of rock veterans.
To the delight of fans, many of whom had come of age when Cheap Trick, Joan Jett and Heart were in their heyday, all three bands trotted out the hits that earned them their legendary status. (Heart was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts followed in 2015 with Cheap Trick newly inducted April 2016.) Each also played covers that paid homage to their own heroes, as well as some brand new music. Yes, these bands are still writing original material four decades into their careers. Jett’s most recent release, 2013’s ‘Unvarnished,’ while Cheap Trick released ‘Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello’ in April 2016, and Heart’s ‘Beautiful Broken’ came out early July, just in time for the kickoff of the tour.
Cheap Trick was first up. Cited as an influence by Kurt Cobain and Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, as well as by bands like Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam, the power-pop icons from Rockford, Ill took the stage with their classic lineup of Robin Zander on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Rick Nielsen on lead guitar, and Tom Petersson on bass, along with Nielsen’s son Daxx on drums.
As is tradition with the band, Cheap Trick bookended their 13-song set with “Hello There” and “Goodnight.” The in-between was a blistering delivery of the Move’s “California Man” and a smokin’ rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man,” sung by Peterrson and prefaced by a killer solo on his 12-string bass. And then there were the hits, one after another: the chart-topping power ballad “The Flame,” and the quintessential Cheap Trick songs “I Want You to Want Me” and “Dream Police.”
As a surprise treat, Cheap Trick welcomed Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to the stage and invited him to join them in singing their iconic teen anthem, “Surrender.” A longtime fan of the band, Peduto sang along gamely, but the second Nielsen and Zander turned their backs, the Mayor made a run for stage right. He was coaxed back to the mic, though, where Nielsen and Zander flanked him, lending the Mayor much needed moral (not to mention vocal) support.
And what would a Cheap Trick show be without guitars. There were a bevy of them, beauties all, including Petersson’s gorgeous 12-string bass, Nielsen’s checkerboard Hamer and that beast of an axe, the backbreaking five-neck black and yellow Hamer, which Nielsen wielded for the band’s closing number.
Cheap Trick Set List
Way of the World
California Man (The Move cover)
If You Want My Love
No Direction Home
Baby Loves to Rock
I’m Waiting for the Man/Heroin (The Velvet Underground cover with Petersson on lead vocals)
I Want You to Want Me
After a quick set change, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts hit the stage loud and fast, bringing the crowd to their feet with Jett’s old-school punk number, “Bad Reputation,” a song that made even the most reserved audience member sing like they had one. A tad overdressed (at least initially) for the heat in a red metallic jumpsuit and black leather jacket, Jett, a New Jersey native who lived in Pittsburgh for a time as a kid, greeted the crowd with some local vernacular asking, “How yinz doin’?”
The diminutive, soft-spoken Jett has a very personable stage presence behind all that badassery. She and the Wilson sisters were some of the very few females fronting a band in the male-dominated world of rock & roll in the 1970s. At a time when music was all about Keith and Jimmy and Pete, Joan gave girls permission to strap on a guitar and command a stage.
Joan’s set included the originals “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” as well as “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild,” the first song she ever wrote, both of which are from her days with The Runaways. The band played covers of Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” Bruce Springsteen’s “Light of Day,” Tommy James & the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover,” Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” and, of course, Jett’s signature hit, the Arrows’ “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” They even worked in the more recent songs “TMI,” “Make It Back,” and “Any Weather,” which Jett wrote with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, as well as the deep cuts “Love is Pain” and “The French Song.”
Joan was set to open for the The Who in Pittsburgh back in 2015 before that date was postponed when Roger Daltry took ill. The show was rescheduled for spring 2016, minus Jett. So glad she made it back to the ‘Burgh as part of the Three for All. Jett’s set showcased a musician who has unapologetically stayed her course. She’s rock’s original feminist. Mad girl crush.
Joan Jett Set List
Cherry Bomb (The Runaways cover)
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) (Gary Glitter cover)
You Drive Me Wild (The Runaways cover)
Light of Day (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Make It Back
Love Is Pain
The French Song
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (The Arrows cover)
Crimson and Clover (Tommy James & the Shondells cover)
I Hate Myself for Loving You
Everyday People (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Heart kicked off the night’s final set with “Wild Child” from their 1990 album ‘Brigade,’ before diving headlong into their massive hit, “Magic Man,” the wail of those intro notes every bit as thrilling 40 years on as when we first heart them back in 1976, courtesy of guitarist Craig Bartock. Fans were dancing in the aisles and singing along with Ann Wilson, reveling in the memory of their glory days.
The band played a mix of songs from their hefty catalog, including fan favorites “Straight On,” “Kick It Out,” and “Barracuda.” With Nancy’s angelic voice playing against Ann’s smoky, ferocious one, both sisters proved they still have the pipes. Ann sang a particularly impassioned version of Heart’s 1987 hit “Alone,” while Nancy took the vocal spotlight on “These Dreams,” accompanying herself on mandolin, and “Two,” an unabashedly romantic ballad written by R&B singer Ne-Yo, from Heart’s new album ‘Beautiful Broken.’
One of the highlights of every Heart show is “Crazy on You,” the single that first introduced the band to the world back in 1976. Nancy used her prowess on the acoustic to tease out the song’s intro, the crowd hanging on her every note as she took them to the brink, again and again, before finally, finally hitting that dynamic chord that set the song ablaze.
Their set concluded, Heart returned to the stage and slayed fans with an encore pairing of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and an authentic, moving rendition of Zeppelin’s masterpiece, “Stairway to Heaven.” Since their 2012 tribute to Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center Honors, a breathtaking performance that brought the house down and elicited a rare tear from rock’s Golden God himself, Heart’s fans can only hope the band closes with this one. And they did. And yet again Ann proved she possesses one of the most powerful and enduring voices in all of rock.
Heart left everything on the stage in Burgettstown on a night honoring seminal bands responsible for creating some of the most memorable music ever written. Well done, ladies. Hurry back.
Heart Set List
Wild Child (Romeo’s Daughter cover)
What About Love (Toronto cover)
Bebe Le Strange
Two (Ne-Yo cover)
Kick It Out
Alone (I-Ten cover)
Crazy on You
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)
The Rock Hall Three for All runs through September 23 when it wraps in West Palm Beach, Florida. If the tour passes anywhere near you, do yourself a huge favor and get in front of this classic rock triple-header.