Fans were not the only thing rocking out at Nikon Jones Beach Theater on July 30th. Heart and Def Leppard teamed up to produce a tour that left the audience with the purest form of rock n’ roll known to man.
Opening act Evan Watson, an Indiana native, took the stage first to show fans what it’s like to be surrounded by blues/folk rock. The soulful sound combined with a jazzy harmonica led by acoustic sounds had us all pumped up and ready to rock out. Watson took on both the harmonica and the guitar himself, and it was definitely a “wow” moment to see all of this sound coming from one person. His husky accent matched the music perfectly and halfway through his act he was joined by Vivian Campbell, the guitarist/vocalist for Def Leppard. After opening with a song called “Woodpecker” and ending with “The Giving Tree”, who wouldn’t love that?
Next on stage was the first of two main acts–Heart. After getting their start back in the 70′s, the two sisters–Ann and Nancy Wilson–have been taking over stages with a fierce female attitude that resulted in a soul-reaching, incredible rock sound. They just released their 13th studio-recorded album, Red Velvet Car, which the band claims is their most personal album yet.
The band went on at 8PM, and jumped straight into “Whole Lotta Love”. While you’re probably thinking “wait, what?” right now, Heart paid a lot of credit to Led Zeppelin for being their inspiration. And they certainly turned the heat up with their rendition of the legendary rock song. Ann Wilson was like Robert Plant in female form, and for the next hour they played their biggest hits such as “Barracuda”, “Crazy On You”, “These Dreams”, “Alone”, and even threw in one hard-rocking hit off of their new album called “WTF” (which was shocking to me but they definitely know how to get down with the feisty acronyms). Ann Wilson’s vocals had unmatched power behind them, and Nancy Wilson jumped around the stage playing her guitar as if it was an extension of herself. The band was joined by other members Ben Smith on drums, Craig Bartock on guitar, Debbie Shair on keyboards/synthesizers, and Kristian Attard on electric bass guitar.
As the end of the act came to a close, Heart went off the stage after playing another Led Zeppelin favorite, “Battle of Evermore”, together, as they gave the audience a glimpse into their childhood and explained how they learned how to play guitar together at a very young age. They played and sang side-by-side, taking the stage alone. It was a heartfelt moment, after Nancy Wilson made a joke about knowing her sister “well…forever”, and making clear that no one else can have her. Ann shared the same feeling, and after coming back for their encore, they threw the people of Jones Beach yet another twist. They came out playing The Who’s “Love Reign On Me” from Quadrophinia. I was convinced there’s nothing that Heart can’t do well, and they absolutely tore the roof down with their “Quadrophinia” cover. It was a great way to end the show, and they got a great response in return.
The band exited the stage and there was an intermission before the next band was to take the stage. While everyone in the almost-packed stadium sitting waited in anticipation, all of a sudden the lights went down. People immediately started cheering and the opening drum beat from the song “Undefeated” off of Def Leppard’s new album Mirrorball came on, flashing pictures of the band members (Joe Elliot-lead vocals/guitar, Rick “Sav” Savage-bass/vocals, Rick Allen-drums, Phil Collen-guitar/vocals, Vivian Campbell-guitar/vocals). The stage heated up as everyone was on their feet and waiting for the lineup they knew was coming. They led into “Let’s Get Rocked”, and played other huge hits such as “Photograph”, “Hysteria”, “Love Bites”, “Too Late For Love”, “Foolin”, “Bringing On The Heartache”, “Animal”, and “Rocket”, along with their cover of David Essex’s “Rock On”, rocking the crap out of each song, hair-metal style, before the stage lit up once again and Joe Elliot made an announcement.
Part one of Elliot’s announcement was more serious, he explained that the reason for the concert being rescheduled was due to his father’s death, and while upsetting, he stood up tall and reassured everyone that it was all good, he was there looking down on them, and dedicated “Two Steps Behind” to his father. It was a more emotional song, and before kicking off the song with strictly guitars, including himself on acoustic, he said “he was a much better singer than I was…I’m going to let my dad take lead vocals on this one”. And it was the most touching moment throughout their entire act.
He then threw a question out to the audience and said, “you want to join the band?” And, of course, there wasn’t a single person who declined. He went on with, “that didn’t sound very enthusiastic (and of course the crowd cheered twice as loud). You can tell all of your friends tomorrow that you were in Def Leppard for, like, ten minutes. Official members of the band. You want to do that? (more cheering) Well all you gotta do–if you know the words to these next couple of songs, we’d really appreciate it if you could sing them right back at us. And we’ll dedicate this one [Two Steps Behind] to my old man”. It was an epic moment.
After the band went offstage and everyone screamed for the encore, they came back on ready to end the night with a bang, preforming a song that happened to be one of my personal favorites, “Rock Of Ages”. You’d swear you were back in the 80′s as Def Leppard made clear that they “want rock n’ roll” with their original hit off of Pyromania. They proved that rock is still rollin’, and rock of the ages is never going to die out.
Both of these bands kicked some serious ass throughout the show, and brought music from the past four decades back to life with a show that people will never forget. This truly was one rock concert that continued to leave a legacy behind for both bands, and that is something the world will always remember. As Joe Elliot says, “until next time…and there will be a next time! Don’t forget us, and we won’t forget you”.
In memory of Joe Elliot Sr., July 17th, aged 81
Lianna Tedesco, Contributor