BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Among the summer tour pairings of classic rock artists (Steve Miller and Peter Frampton, Styx and REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard and Poison), the union of Boston and Joan Jett is a solid one because really, sometimes all you want is a loud, fun, rock ‘n’ roll show.
At Verizon Amphitheatre Wednesday, Jett opened the night of three-plus hours of music with the 1981 throwback “Victim of Circumstance” and, with her trusty Blackhearts flanking her, relentlessly tore through her anthemic catalog for the next 50 minutes.
Wearing a skintight, age-defying jumpsuit and a black, shaggy hairdo not much different than her alluring MTV-era look, Jett, 58, proved dependably fierce as a guitarist and singer.
As drummer Thommy Price thundered the intro to her hit version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Light of Day,” Jett flashed her trademark half-grin – or snarl, depending upon the moment – while scenes from the movie with her pal Michael J. Fox flashed on the screen behind the band.
Even though the majority of Jett’s hits are covers – the thumping “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” courtesy of Gary Glitter, the soft-loud dynamics on Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover,” the eternal pool hall anthem “I Love Rock & Roll” from The Arrows – have you ever really thought of them as anything other than Joan Jett songs?
Her sound, a combination of downtown New York sleaze, New Wave catchiness and pure rock grit, makes even her spunky version of one of the greatest TV theme songs ever, Sonny Curtis’ “Love is All Around” from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” churn with energy.
With her partner-in-everything-musical, Kenny Laguna, hanging in the background to play keyboards (and cowbell), and longtime guitarist Dougie Needles and bassist Hal B. Selzer shadowing her, Jett played crowd favorites “I Love Rock & Roll” and the tom-tom heavy “I Hate Myself for Loving You” with admirable interest.
Her voice sounded well-preserved – she remains a fist-pumping raspy rocker – and even though she’s always been an incisive guitarist, the solo she unleashed during “Everyday People” made even longtime fans raise an eyebrow in admiration.
Jett’s vibrant set was an ideal opener for Boston, who returned to the venue almost exactly a year since playing it for their 40th anniversary tour.
This round, dubbed the “Hyper Space Tour,” satisfied die-hards and casual fans alike with a set list that included ubiquitous radio rockers from the ‘70s and ‘80s – and now heard even more ubiquitously on classic rock stations – “Peace of Mind” and “We’re Ready,” as well as 2013’s “Heaven on Earth.”
This is a band that has always known how to make and entrance and, moments after Tom Scholz, still wearing his M.I.T. muscle T-shirts and long shorts at 70 (!!), led them into the opening “Rock & Roll Band,” the stage brightened with the classic Boston logo and space-age lighting.
Its mere presence was enough to zap this crowd to its feet, where it remained for air guitar favorites “Smokin’” and “Feelin’ Satisfied.”
It’s hard to believe that this year is the 10th anniversary of the death of singer and founding member Brad Delp. His presence will always be missed on stage, but Tommy DeCarlo, who has fronted Boston since 2008, handles the job with an easygoing vibe and a wicked set of pipes.
The sound throughout the show was pristine – not a shock considering the meticulousness of Scholz – and DeCarlo ably hit the impossibly high notes that trademark many Boston songs, while Scholz worked his guitar wizardry (and smoke-puffing keyboards) with undiminished technical alacrity.
Adding to the sonic explosion were bassist Tracy Ferrie, guitarist Gary Pihl, drummer Jeff Neal and newest member, keyboardist Beth Cohen – a stable unit dedicated to bringing the rock.