Photos by Mark Manary
Joan Jett strolled on stage in Sedalia, Missouri, at the Missouri State Fair with a gum-chewing grin, fiddled with her Gibson for a couple seconds, and then ripped into an opening trifecta: punk proclamation “Bad Reputation”, The Runaways classic “Cherry Bomb”, and the grandstand-rattling “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”. After shedding her black leather jacket, she exhibited her wiry frame, jogging around the stage, still like a teenage Leather Tuscadero in a spandex chevron jumpsuit and Chuck Taylors.
Jett was intent on showcasing her first new album in seven years, last year’s strong yet underrated Unvarnished, playing six of the album’s ten songs, including the Hurricane Sandy-inspired “Make It Back”, the Dave Grohl collaboration “Any Weather”, and “Soulmates to Strangers”, a co-write with Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace.
The parade of new songs was broken up with three older self-penned numbers: the first song she ever wrote, The Runaways’ “You Drive Me Wild”, 1981’s “Love is Pain”, and “The French Song” (Joan’s “all-time favorite video”) from 1983’s Album.
But this is a state fair and with the smell of funnel cakes and diesel in the air, the people had come to pump their fists to the hits while trying not to spill their $5.75 Bud Lights. Just when the crowd seemed to waver on unfamiliar new album material, Joan delivered the haymaking threesome of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”, “Crimson and Clover”, and “I Hate Myself For Loving You”. After introducing her Blackhearts during the three-song encore, she summed up her message of rebellion, individualism, and acceptance with Sly Stone’s “Everyday People”.