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Concert Reviews:
Rock veterans flaunt Hall of Fame credentials at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2016

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- If you took a stroll through the then-Pine Knob parking lot about 30 years ago, you likely would have heard many of the songs played during the Rock Hall Three For All tour kick-off on Thursday night, July 14, at what's now known as the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

And that's a testimony to both the durability of the songs and the three acts that made them -- all of whom, it should be noted, are still around with recent product to promote.

Between them, tour headliner Heart, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Cheap Trick -- all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, hence the tour title -- have amassed a treasure trove of classic rock hits all worthy of inclusion of a time capsule for a particular era. The put them all on audible parade Thursday in a slick, efficient four-hour and 45-minute production marked by quick set changes, no-fuss staging and, in two of the three cases, set lists heavy on exactly what DTE's full house of fans wanted to hear.

Cheap Trick -- whose April induction made it the most recent of the tour's Rock Hall members -- pounded through its hour on stage with its usual workmanlike assurance, letting up only for the hit power ballad "The Flame." For most of the set, however, the quartet -- with frontman Robin Zander sporting white "Dream Police" attire and guitarist Rick Nielsen flicking picks like a Thompson gunner -- cranked up the volume and the energy, despite the hot sun, through favorites such as "Stop This Game," "I Want You To Want Me," "Dream Police," "Surrender" and a cover of The Move's "California Man," along with "Heart on the LIne" from this year's "Bang, Zoom, Crazy...Hello" album.

The highlight, however, was a rendition of "I'm Waiting For the Man" sung by bassist Tom Petersson that blended the menace of the Velvet Underground's original with Cheap Trick's unbowed power pop spirit.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts hit it just as hard during their 55-minute middle set, looking punk in black leathers and denims (though Jett sported a sparkly red-and-black jumpsuit under her jacket) and playing its 13 songs with ferocious purpose. There was no shortage of anthems, either, from Jett's own "Bad Reputation" and "I Hate Myself For Loving You" to her versions of Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)," the Bruce Springsteen-written "Light of Day," her Runaways favorites "Cherry Bomb" and "You Drive Me Wild," a her smash cover of the Arrows' "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People."

Countering that punky, minimalist attack, however, was the night's most interesting visual display, filling the large screen at the rear of the stage with vintage images of Jett and her bandmates that nodded to the nostalgic nature of the night even if they also snuck in three songs from her latest album, 2013's "Unvarnished."

Both groups threw down an energetic gauntlet for Heart to follow, but the group -- led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson -- opted instead for more dynamic diversity, and may have gone too far in that direction. Though Heart's 14-song, 70-minute concert offered a healthy dose of rockers -- including "Wild Child," "Bebe Le Strange," "Crazy On You" and "Barracuda" -- there was an ebb-and-flow with gentler material, including a momentum-stalling trio of "These Dreams" and Ne-Yo's "Two," both sung by guitarist Nancy, and "Alone." Heart also offered up four tracks from its recently released "Beautiful Broken," and while the title track and the new version of the group's "Sweet Darlin'" were solid, it was perhaps a bit too much brand new material in a short set.

With both Wilsons sporting lacey outfits -- Ann in a baby doll dress, Nancy in leggings -- "Straight On," preceded by a bit of James Brown's "Get Up Off That Thing," did have the DTE crowd dancing. And the encore's two Led Zeppelin covers, "Immigrant Song" and "Misty Mountain Hope," were capably delivered -- with Ann Wilson in fine, bellowing vocal form -- but the absence of many key hits, most particularly 1976's "Magic Man," was glaring. As the tour winds on, Heart might want to follow its colleagues' leads and showcase the songs that made it Rock Hall-caliber in the first place.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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