You gotta keep your love
Keep your love alive
For rock music.
I woke up today and my brain was playing this song. I was kinda fuzzy, like I’d been through something.
They call it music.
Elle King… A constant warning to take the other direction, as Jim Carroll once sang. Completely different from everything in the Spotify Top 50. Music played with guitars, a band, with a frontwoman with pipes and soul. You used to gain attention by being on the radio, through your records, now it’s appearing live. Most people have never heard of you, never mind your music. That’s the essence of festivals today, grazing, checking out the new and different to see if anything’s worth paying attention to. And the epicenter is the Newport Folk Festival. It’s the antithesis of the shiny happy people topping Spotify. It’s not about a certain headliner, but a scene, which its members feel part of. I’d rather see brand expansion on Newport than any other festival. I got there early just to see Elle, and she delivered.
Unlike Joan Jett.
What kind of crazy, fucked-up world do we live in where Joan Jett is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Heart isn’t?
One in which the Hall has been compromised by personal agendas. Now membership means nothing, it just shows some insider has a hard-on for you. Used to be a badge of honor to be included, now I think it’s more of a badge of honor to be EXCLUDED! Like Todd Rundgren. He’s got more talent in his little finger than Joan Jett. And he writes, plays, produces and engineers. But no, he can’t be in the Hall, even though “Hello It’s Me” has as much ubiquity as Jett’s hits, even though he’s been responsible for more hits, can you say WE’RE AN AMERICAN BAND?
Jett’s lead guitarist looked like he’d escaped from a mental hospital. His hair slicked up, he was too old for this. You wished he’d sacrificed the tattoos and gotten a day job, it’s not the eighties anymore.
And Kenny Laguna was a laughingstock. Evidence of what a manager should not do. He played on stage in his street clothes and then took the mic and rambled at length TWICE! As if he was the act. And maybe he’s responsible for Jett’s success, but come on man, isn’t the money enough? Can’t you kvell in private? Insiders know what you did, outsiders just don’t care.
But I’ll admit to enjoying “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” with its “oh yeah” break. But Joan didn’t even nail her hits, i.e. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You”…you’d think she’d have them dialed in after all this time, but no, they missed a bit, like a high school band performing them, and as far as the closer, Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People”… Why? Then again, at this late date, even though she has not come out of the closet, Jett is a gay icon, and a lot of her fans were in attendance.
Actually, that’s something that stunned me. The Bowl was essentially sold out. This bill has been tearing it up all over the country. Do people want nostalgia? Or to see women perform? Or..?
One thing’s for sure, when word gets out how great Heart still is, attendance will go up, THEY WOWED US!
Now they had three guitarists. I haven’t seen this configuration since Keith Urban shows. As well as a bass and keyboard player and drummer.
And they started with a hit, “Bebe Le Strange”‘s “Rockin’ Heaven Down,” you know with that guitar figure intro and then Ann Wilson’s voice…
That was the shocker of the evening, Ann Wilson’s vocals. She hasn’t lost a step, no range, the old classic male rockers voices’ are compromised, we cut them a break in concert, but Ann’s voice was still there, it was marvelous and overwhelming.
And Ann and the band knew what they were doing. They were there to knock our socks off, there’s no way anybody could have followed them. It was like the seventies all over again, you were jetted back to that era, when you were addicted to FM radio and out of the airwaves exploded an unheard band from Seattle on an indie label.
And that was the following number, “Magic Man”…there’s no boomer who doesn’t know it.
Come on home girl
Mama cried on the phone
Too soon to lose my baby
And my girl should be at home
But try to understand
Try to understand
Try, try, try to understand
He’s a magic man mama
Sisters who followed the sound, who went off the beaten path, who weren’t put together in a fake band by Kim Fowley, who were addicted to the sound and were willing to sacrifice everything to pursue it.
But the best part of “Magic Man” was the break. They played all the sounds, it was the record, it wasn’t on hard drive, but you felt there was no way they’d be able to execute it, down to the synth sound. It was a revelation, a stunner, this is what we came for, even if we didn’t know it. The band is tight as can be, firing on all cylinders, we were taken away, just like we used to be.
The third number was “Love Alive,” quoted above.
It was about this time that I realized how many hits Heart had, that they could do a whole show of them, why do they get no respect?
With Nancy picking, demonstrating chops equivalent to the boys, I was reminded of what once was and suddenly was back, that exhilaration of the sound, when we all lived for it, when it wasn’t about brand extension, but what was in the grooves.
But then the surprise of all surprises. You caught it from the beginning but just couldn’t believe it, they were playing…Yes’s “Your Move”? It was positively shocking. With the harmonies. From “The Yes Album,” before the band truly hit. If you were a fan back then your skin tingled. And you remembered how Ann and Nancy were always fans, they were just like us!
And when they finished to thunderous applause, they broke into…
I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE?
I bet you’re wondering how I knew
I didn’t. But they did. That this would titillate us, get us grooving, illustrating how they were on the same wavelength as those in the crowd. It was a celebration, which broke into “Straight On” and then briefly back. Huh? How’re they doing this, and not having it look like nostalgia?
Then Nancy did a solo “Boxer,” that’s right, the Simon & Garfunkel song, showing that her pipes were strong, that she could hold her own, that Ann wasn’t the only stellar vocalist in the band.
Same deal on “These Dreams,” Nancy’s legendary eighties hit, which was even better than the record, with more gravitas.
Oh, they played “Dog & Butterfly,” risking softness when everybody expected the band to be in their faces.
And I liked “Little Queen” better than the record, it rocked just perfectly.
But even better was “Even It Up.” Which rocked on down the highway as well as any of the vaunted male-led consortiums from back then, demonstrating the band’s power, their drive.
I’ll admit there was one song I didn’t recognize, “Mistral Wind,” even though I own the album it’s on, I guess I just haven’t played it in a while.
And then they went crazy on us. At this point we were smiling, truly the people we once were.
And then the band left the stage.
Now I know they’ve got to play “Barracuda,” and most acts want to go out on a balls-out rocker, but when the band returned, Nancy strode to the front of the stage with her acoustic and started playing…
My body’s tingling again, because I was so shocked and it was so cool, so life-affirming and centering, it was none other than “Stairway To Heaven”!
Of course I know the band’s huge Zeppelin fans. But I expected “Battle Of Evermore,” which the sisters covered in the Lovemongers. I mean it’s the encore, you play your best material and go out.
And Ann’s playing the flute, demonstrating she’s got more talent than you think, and you’re positively stunned, you’re going on a journey, to where you once lived, a land you treaded to the point you know it by heart, but can never go back to. And here’s a band on stage recreating it, as a tribute, but done by them, EVEN BETTER THAN ZEPPELIN COULD DO IT!
Of course Jimmy could play the guitar parts, but there’s no way Plant can hit those high notes anymore, he admits this and has moved on to greener pastures, but Ann Wilson still can, and she’s levitating the whole Bowl.
And as we wind on down the road
We realize we lived through something, something the younger generation can never know. When music drove the culture, when rock was king and we all listened, paid attention, read every word we could about it and went to the show not to shoot selfies, but to have a religious experience.
And Ann Wilson is not one of those miasma masters, a TV contestant with pipes and no soul. She’s comfortable on stage, acting the front person as well as any male. She’s the lead singer, the cherry on top, but she knows the band is right behind her, to support her, to carry the whole enterprise over the top.
Of course they ended with “Barracuda,” after a powerhouse version of “Alone,” but then they were smiling, knowing their work was done, they came to conquer and they did.
Yes, this was the era. When you strove not to be a banker but a musician, when there was no higher calling, when we worshipped the people on stage, when we listened to what they had to say, because they’d been there and done that, they had wisdom.
Now if you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not.
This is not hip-hop, this is not “The Voice,” actually I thought Ann should be a judge, then again, you can’t teach what she’s got, she was born with it, the greatness was intangible, same with her sister Nancy, what environment did these two sisters grow up in that they could create and deliver at this level?
It was like we all decided to go on a trip back together, as ourselves, to explore what was there, how we felt and what parts of that era are still embedded in our souls.
We were a band of wild angels…
Rockin’ heaven down.
Heart is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were inducted in 2013. But that just shows what a worthless institution it is, I couldn’t remember this. I guess I still can’t get over the fact that Joan Jett is a member. Who next, the Archies? Or maybe the Fugs, they were new and different. And the list of those excluded is too long to list. Herman’s Hermits had much more impact than Joan Jett, but somehow they’re excluded. The R&RHOF is a dead paradigm, it’s run by the tight pants/black leather jacket crew, you know, the wankers in the back of the room who think they know better but never went on a date. But today, those people have no purchase…in a world where no one can know everything and the joke is on those who are proud of being there first and dissing everybody else’s taste. It’s every person for themselves now, and if you find something and like it, more power to you, we’re all overwhelmed. I won’t say that makes it great, but great no longer surfaces all by itself, and too much which is great is never acknowledged.
End of rant.
I hate being wrong.