As a perhaps the most distinguished lover of rock 'n' roll, Joan Jett celebrated the release of Unvarnished - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' tenth studio album and first in seven years - with a good, old-fashioned rock show.
The "surprise" event was announced only a few days prior to its occurrence, with a limited amount of tickets available to the public. It was held on October 2nd at Santos Party House (co-owned by Andrew W.K.) in New York, NY. With a capacity of 480, the nightclub provided a unique, intimate evening with a living legend.
Following an introduction by The Dictators' frontman "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, The Blackhearts - lead guitarist Dougie Needles, drummer Thommy Price, bassist Acey Slade (ex-Dope) and keyboardist Kenny Laguna (who is also Jett's producer) - took the stage. Jett was the last one out, with her headphone-clad goddaughter in her arms. Jett traded the infant for her guitar, and the band kicked off with "TMI," one of many punchy, catchy numbers from Unvarnished.
It was unclear if the show would rely heavily on material from Unvarnished, but Jett refuted that notion by following up with "Cherry Bomb," from her influential previous band, The Runaways. Like a snake shedding its skin, Jett removed her leather jack after the two songs to reveal a sparkling, red catsuit, accented by a studded belt, a pair of Chuck Taylors and her signature raccoon-eyed makeup. At 55, she pulls off the outfit better than most girls half age could - while playing guitar, no less.
Jett introduced "You Drive Me Wild" as being the first song she ever wrote. Although she was a mere teenage at the time, it holds up well today - and her new material plays seamlessly alongside it. In addition to many of the best tracks from Unvarnished - including lead single "Any Weather" (co-written by Dave Grohl) and "Soulmates to Strangers" (co-written by Against Me's Laura Jane Grace) - The Blackhearts played such classics as "Bad Reputation," "Crimson and Clover," "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and, of course, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." They ended their encore with a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People."
Joan Jett is a bona fide rock and roll pioneer, icon and a future Hall of Famer. It was truly a treat to see her and the rest of The Blackhearts at such an intimate appearance - but I think it's safe to say that the show would have rocked just as hard regardless of the size of the venue. Unvarnished is classic Jett, and its release show followed suit.