Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
"August 22, 2008"

Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Seneca Casino, Niagara Falls, NY
August 22, 2008

I spend a lot of time in the bowels of Boston and Cambridge and Allston in MA listening to bands, hoping to hear something, anything that is fresh or new or funky. Something good. Every so often some one comes along that truly excites me. I'm always grateful for these artists whose music I truly enjoy listening to as well as writing about.

Dougie Needles, current lead guitarist for Joan Jett and The Blackhearts is someone that I heard very unexpectedly a year ago April, when I caught the tail end of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' Sinners tour in Newport, RI. When not touring as a BlackHeart, Needles fronts his own band, The Public Offenders. Fresh, raw, true self-styled NYC punk, Needles is an incredibly talented guitarist with well crafted riffs that exude energy and passion, very interesting to look at and equally exciting to watch.

I had the opportunity to see and hear Needles recently playing as a BlackHeart in Niagara Falls, NY. A free outdoor concert at the Seneca Casino, it was the casino's last free concert of the summer. Doug Needles and bass player Enzo Penizzotto are the newest Blackhearts. Drummer Thommy Price, a BlackHeart for more than 18 years, formerly of Mink Deville, has an extensive resume (Billy Idol, The Psychedelic Furs). Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett's long time producer and songwriting partner, on keyboards, back-up vocals and tambourine, is an original Shondel. So on this stage, on a very hot summer night, was a range and expanse of musical talent that produced a concert that was simply incredible featuring the original riot girl and punk music pioneer.

The Niagara Falls Seneca Casino concert audience was as varied as a New York City street during rush hour. Old fans, new fans, families with kids, people from the surrounding neighborhood, die hard fans who had traveled great distances. I spoke to a women earlier in the afternoon who had taken a cab from Pennsylvania to attend the concert. Sporting a tattoo on her bicep of Jett's signature from a concert twenty years ago, this woman was stoked by concert time. There was a Seneca Nation tribe member, sitting patiently with his family wearing a big grin and even bigger binoculars to get a better view. By the end of the evening, the venue was packed to overflow capacity, spilling out onto the surrounding sidewalks and packing the concrete valet parking concourse located above the seating area which was standing room only: three tiers of revelers crammed in like sardines and all clamoring to get a look at Jett.

From the moment Jett stepped on to the stage she was seductive, powerful, and playful. An incredible force, an influence to so many. Everybody wants to meet her, to see her, to touch her, so many musicians try to emulate her musical style. Jett is a once in a life time musician, a precious jewel, like an Elvis Presley or a Frank Sinatra. Heavy Ramones influence is present but Jett's very much about her own style, developed and crafted over years of performing in all manor of venues for every walk of life. Forged from sweat, blood and tears, compressed into countless hours of playing.

Opening the set with "Change the World," a cut off her Sinner CD released in 2006, it was sung with lots of New York attitude and featured low slung fret work before the band slid right into "Cherry Bomb" complete with flashing red spot lights. Highlights included "Love is All Around," with an excellent, really long lasting, guitar jam between Jett and Needles, and "Fetish," during which Jett exuded an almost trance-like effect on the crowd.

The band also celebrated Penizzotto's birthday as Jett encouraged the audience to sing "Happy Birthday" and presented a birthday cake complete with candles. Of course, A Joan Jett concert wouldn't be complete without her hit song "I Love Rock and Roll" and with the strike of the first chord the entire crowd jumped simultaneously to their feet. Followed by cover song "Crimson and Clover," and final song "I Hate Myself for Loving You." A resounding applause brought Jett and the Blackhearts back to the stage for an encore performance of "AC/DC" and "Everyday People."

Jett closed the concert with her signature words: "Take care of yourselves and a have good weekend!" Then, almost as fast as she appeared, Jett was gone leaving the audience breathless, crazy, craving more. I waited a year to see Jett perform like this and she exceeded my best expectation, this is truly a concert I will not forget.