Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Romantics, Berlin, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Junefest at Sunset Junction

The talent that appears at local classic rack stations KKLZ's Junefest varies wildly, from stuff that I couldn't care about, like Loverboy, to a true r'r' legend, like Joan Jett! Once I heard that she was headlining, along with Detroit garage-pop hit-makers, the Romantics, I made sure that I would be there!

Opening the day was former Babys' lead singer, John Waite, who we missed, because we aren't fans, but we were surprised to find out that the Romantics, the band with one of the most recognizable songs of all time, that is played everywhere, every minute of the day, was second on the bill. But, while looking a bit older and heavier (aren't we all?), and rhythm guitarist/harmonica-player Wally Palmar's voice was a little ragged, they were stylish, flashy (especially "new" drummer Brad Elvis, who was constantly entertaining with his antics - throwing his sticks, balancing them on his hands, twirling and plenty of other visual wackiness) and kicked out some hot garage pop masterpieces.

Along with Palmar and Elvis, original bassist Rich Cole and lead guitarist/vocalist Mike Skill make up the current line-up. Skill's playing is as raw'n'trashy (in a good way!) as any 80's garage player, and they use nicely appropriate equipment like Rickenbacker, Telecaster, and Vox to get their sound. They have kept active over the years, so there were some songs that I didn't know, but they pulled out the big hits like "Tell it to Carrie" and "Talking in Your Sleep", cool covers like the Kinks' "She's Got Everything" and the Animals' "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" and, of course, closed with "What I Like About You", which got everyone up and singing along. Interesting that Palmar and Skill traded lead vocals on that song, which I never noticed before. Really great set, though I missed their cover of Richard & the Young Lions' "Open Up Your Door".

I never really cared much about Berlin, even in their days as a local LA band - their keyboard-laden new wave just never resonated with me, and still doesn't, to be truthful. Terri Nunn is in great shape, physically and vocally, and does her best to connect with the audience, walking into the crowd on at least a couple of instances (including standing on the chairs right in front of us while we were stuffing our faces with food that took us an hour or more to get - so, no pix of that!) and bringing peple up on stage to dance along with them. Cool cover of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love", though!

It seemed to take an excessively long time for Joan to make her appearance, but once she did, she made it worth everyone's while! Walking out to Booker T & the MG's "Chinese Checkers" (she has great taste in music!), the Blackhearts blasted through "Bad Reputation" (great opener!), "Cherry Bomb" and "Do You Wanna Touch" before moving on to some new songs from her latest CD, Unvarnished. Of course, the crowd wanted the hits, but the new tunes were all solid Joan rockers - glam/punk with melody and style - and short enough to not challenge to the people too much!

Jett looked pretty damn amazing in a glitter jumpsuit and played solid guitar (her traditional Melody Maker through what looked like a Music Man head over a Vox amp - sounded terrific) - even trading off licks with her lead man and doing some nice harmony leads together. On keys was her long-time producer/co-songwriter Kenny Laguna, which added to the numbers, while the rhythm section remained solid, powerful and relatively unobtrusive, and guitarist Dougie Needles jumped around and threw his guitar about as he played. Vocals were superb all around - Joan always is in good voice and the backing vocals were as big as on the records.

There was a nice surprise as she pulled out another Runaways number, "You Drive Me Wild", then something from an 80's movie ("Light of Day") that I didn't recognize, several more new ones (including one about having a menage a trois with Joan) and then the monster hit, "I Love Rock'n'Roll" - another big audience singalong. Surprisingly, that was not the closer, and she ended the set with "Crimson and Clover" into "I Hate Myself For Loving You". The crowd wouldn't let her go just yet and she came back with "Wild Child" and then broke up a fight in front before finishing for the night with a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People".

Joan is a rare one who can play "nostalgia" nights like these while still remaining relevant and vibrant with solid new music, as well. Saw her a few years back and she continues to do solid, professional and exciting rock''roll shows. See her - well worth it!