I always start an article with, growing up or when I was a kid. There is a reason for that, most of the artists that I photograph or journal about are from when I was growing up or when I was a kid. It’s the reason I cover them. Memories of time-ago, a time when music was everything and for me, that time is still going.
Seeing a concert was tough even if you had money to waste and I never did. So when I did get to go, it had better be worth it. Today it’s even worse, because today the prices can be upwards of a mortgage payment. So I definitely make it worth it.
Becoming a concert photojournalist makes that easier but not always. The cost may not be a factor as much as my time has become, but you better believe I work hard to get in front of that stage. I drive upwards of 3-6 hours, pay out of the nose for a camera, lenses and other gear. I get lost, wander around aimlessly, only to have security yell at me because I can’t come in with “that bag”.
Even after I just spent ten minutes explaining to the ticket scanner (20ft away) that I am a photographer, “that bag” is my camera and I have permission to be here.
If that weren’t enough, lights can make a shoot turn to shit in a hurry. Either by blowing out a picture with bright lights and pyros or the exact opposite. So dark you are lucky if you can see the outline of a person. That very artist you spent the last few months trying to get approval for photos, will glare at you, turn away or walk to the back of the stage. My personal favorite is when you get stuck back by the soundboard and you pray for any kind of decent photo at all.
Now ask me if it’s worth it, ask me if I make it worth it. Yes, hell yes I do.
Ok I kinda, sorta, didn’t really get away from the subject and here is why. When I was contacted by Live Nation and told I didn’t get the photo pass for the Love Alive Tour, but would I like a ticket to review the show? In KC? Three hours down and three hours back and a three hour concert, in between the drive? My response is writing this article right now. Hell yes! It’s Heart, it’s Joan Jett. Joan damn Jett. YES. Yes I will make that work, thank you very much.
It has been awhile since I went to a concert alone without my camera. In the past I only went to concerts alone. Some of you may understand that and for the rest of you, it’s just who I am. I don’t like to be interrupted while watching a show for any reason.
When I arrived at the Starlight Theater, I was surprised. It was a huge stage surrounded by a Shakespearean style building. Used mostly for performing arts, but it hosts a concert series, too.
My generation, 70’s and 80’s, has some of the best female artists of all time and I can tell you, two of them were on stage that night. Joan Jet took the stage and blasted her raspy, rebel voice with the song Victim of Circumstance, a song about being trouble for just being at the wrong place and wrong moment. A great anthem of your fist pumping teenage angst.
Joan looked beautiful with her black shaggy hair and black leather jacket. Still rockin’ the punk style look and sound and if we all weren’t years older I could say nothing about her has changed.
Thommy Price who is still the original Blackheart’s drummer, spoke a few times on the history of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. He promoted the documentary titled Fresh Start, which has the title track of the same name. He also talks briefly about the Blackheart Records and about how the label got started and why Joan Jett had to resort to building her own label, rather than stay under one that would go back and forth on her record deals or deny her entirely because she was a woman.
Joan had an entire crowd of men, women and others, rocking out too some old tunes. The ones we use to crank up in the car and sing like no one was watching. The song Cherry Bomb was a crowd favorite, a song that Jett helped write for the 1976 band The Runaways. Lita Ford who was also a part of that band has also been known to sing Cherry Bomb at many her shows.
Nothing is crazier than a crowd of middle aged folks screaming out “I LOVE ROCK N ROLL” with the devil horns thrusting in time to the music and lyrics. This is an iconic song, even if you don’t know who sings it, you have heard it and probably hummed it a time or two. If you didn’t you had no business at this concert.
A classic set with Bad Reputation, Do You Wanna Touch Me and more. Leaving me wishing she could just play all night. Towards the end of the performance she rocked it old school with a personal favorite I Hate Myself For Loving You. Every jilted girl’s stalker song, but it really wasn’t. It’s about that angst for wanting someone who doesn’t want you.
It was a fun show, Joan looks amazing and rocked it up like the pro that she is. This was my first time seeing her perform live and I can say that I don’t think if I was missing out on her past performances because other than her age I can't imagine it being any different.
Heart took the stage, actually they owned the stage. With rich colored lights and backdrops of red, gold, blue and purple. Nancy made her appearance first and at the same the band walked out. Showing that she is in fact very much a part of the band, if not the most important member. She had her blue ‘63 Fender Telecaster guitar, that looked well loved but not at all spoiled. I almost didn't recognize her, she looked so incredibly young. Beautiful blonde hair, that as far away as I could see looked natural. It took me a moment to adjust to seeing her for the first time, in person. Nancy is 65 years old and very well could have passed for a woman in her 40’s. Easily.
Nancy Wilson has always been a personal favorite of mine and she is the polar opposite of beauty than her sister. She had long dark hair that cascaded down her back and she wore a pink headband and she looked lovely. Her voice was a little deeper, maybe raspier than the recordings I have heard but she hit every powerful note just like she does on every song. She was Nancy Wilson from Heart and she sang her songs and performed as such.
The crowd went crazy when big hits were played, not just the ladies in the house but the guys too. No seat was taken until the show was over. I yelled my love of my favorite songs Magic Man, Crazy On You, Dog and Butterfly and yes even the overplayed song, Baracuda which was part of their encore. When the rendition of Stairway To Heaven started and the haunting voice of Ann, it gave me goosebumps. I learned later that this was played at the Kennedy Center as a tribute to Led Zeppelin in 2012. I have never heard a better cover of this song, and I have heard (as we all have) a lot of them. My funny has always been “do you know why Jimmy Page doesn’t play this song in concert anymore? Because everyone else does.”
It was a beautiful night of music, from some of the most beautiful ladies of Rock N Roll.
Now, ask me again if it was worth it, worth the drive, worth the time, worth the money spent? With a resounding YES, I am now writing this article for you. It is nice to remember that not everything is about my photographs and that I can bring you words that can be and once was my only photography. Words that might stick with you a little longer.
Written by, Penny Pepperstein See you soon, see you there!