Jett, who co-founded the seminal all-girl jailbait band The Runaways back when she was a teenager, then burned bright as a solo artist in the early ‘80s, seemed immune to middle age as she tore through an hour-plus of power-chord-driven songs in a skintight, sparkly red jumpsuit that most women half her age couldn’t pull off.
With the help of the Blackhearts (Dougie Needles on guitar, Acey Slade on bass guitar, Thommy Price on drums, and longtime manager and co-conspirator Kenny Laguna on percussion and keyboards), Jett kicked the concert off with “Bad Reputation,” which still packs a punch more than 30 years after it was first recorded. The song set the tone for the rest of the show, with the memorable lyrics, “I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation,” and the nod to her pioneering spirit for women in rock ‘n’ roll, “A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Next up was “Cherry Bomb,” an infectious rocker first recorded by The Runaways, whose legacy recently got a big boost thanks to the release of a biopic movie based on the band. This one had the crowd shouting along, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch cherry bomb!”
The momentum stayed high with the Gary Glitter glam rocker “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” a minor hit for Jett back in the ‘80s, with the crowd belting out, “Yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah!” at Jett’s encouragement.
Jett followed with a mix of old and new songs, mostly in her trademark punk-kissed style, including another cool Runaways song, “You Drive Me Wild,” which Jett said was the first song that she ever wrote.
The crowd went crazy when she got to the aforementioned “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” Jett’s signature song and her biggest hit from way back in 1982. This might make you feel old, but the video for this song was one of the first runaway (sorry, couldn’t resist) hits on a fledgling cable television channel called MTV. Ah, remember when MTV was all about cutting-edge music?
It’s easy to forget that “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” is actually a cover song — the original was by the glam rock band The Arrows. And Jett always did have a knack for choosing cool covers, nicely demonstrated by the next song “Crimson and Clover,” a cover of the Tommy James and the Shondells mega-hit (hmm, perhaps not coincidentally, Laguna was himself a Shondell). This was followed by one more Top 10 hit, “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Jett’s encore included two more covers, the smoking “A.C.D.C.,” originally by the glam rock band Sweet, and a punkified version of the Sly and the Family Stone song “Everyday People,” a still relevant call for acceptance of others.
Jett clearly still loves rock ‘n’ roll, as did the audience at the fair. “So put another dime in the jukebox, baby,” and “Come and take your time and dance with me!”
Cherry Bomb (The Runaways song)
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Gary Glitter cover)
Victim of Circumstance
You Drive Me Wild (The Runaways song)
The French Song
Love Is Pain
Hard to Grow Up
I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll (The Arrows cover)
Crimson and Clover (Tommy James and The Shondells cover)
I Hate Myself for Loving You
A.C.D.C. (Sweet cover)
Everyday People (Sly and the Family Stone cover)
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.