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JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS: LIVE

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Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  BMG
Features:  Two Bonus Videos, Biography, Discography
Length:  60 Minutes
Release Date:  June 12, 2001

“I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation…”

Film ***

“I Love Rock ‘n Roll” crowned the Billboard charts for an amazing eight straight weeks back in 1981.  It had legions of loyal fans scowling and pumping their fists in the air to the heavy beat, and it made a household name of one Joan Jett and her band, The Blackhearts.  The gritty, black and white video became a staple of the new music channel called MTV, and the song became an instantly recognizable rock anthem for all time.

Ms. Jett may never have repeated that chart success, but to call her a one-hit wonder would be unfair.  She has continued to rock audiences around the world with an energetic live show, a collection of great songs, and an ever changing look…from the unglamorous short and straight hair days of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” to her new, bleach blonde crew cut, Joan Jett has never been conventional, nor has she been willing to fit comfortably into any image the entertainment world might want her to reside in.

This live DVD shows Jett and company in a concert taped for VH1 in Colorado.  It’s too bad it was for TV, as Joan’s colorful language is often censored, and there are breaks in the show for commercial placement.  No matter…the music is all there, loud, rude, and potent as ever, as is Joan’s unmistakable voice.  Her choice of material is inclusive and eclectic, from her hit remakes (“I Love…”, “Crimson and Clover”, “Do You Wanna Touch Me”) to new songs (“Androgynous”, “Fetish”) to the unexpected (“The Mary Tyler Moore Theme”, “Everyday People”). 

Joan Jett remains solidly in character throughout, with a dangerous sneer and curled lip as she belts out tune after tune…but every so often, she forgets herself and gives a smile.  She obviously loves what she’s doing, or she still wouldn’t be doing it some twenty years after her biggest hit.

Video **

You can’t expect much from a made-for-TV program recorded on video, and you don’t get it here.  The show is perfectly watchable, but all the inherent problems of tape are here, including softer images, distortions with bright or colored lights, and a general lack of detail in long shots.

Audio ***1/2

Nothing wrong with the audio mix, however.  This loud, dynamic 5.1 soundtrack will fill your living room with a concert going experience, with a deep, booming bass anchoring the soaring guitars and vocals.

Features *1/2

Two bonus videos are the main feature…I wished they had included some of her early, pioneering works, but instead, one is a live rendition of “Do You Wanna Touch Me” at an MTV New Year’s Party for 1985 (does the crowd look terminally bored to you, or is it just me?) and a more recent video for “Real Wild Child”.  Rounding out the extras is a bio on Jett, and a discography.

Summary:

Joan Jett has worn her rock and roll attitude on her sleeve for more than two decades.  Whether she’s playing sold out arenas or small venues, she proves on this DVD that she still gives her all to the music she loves, and her fans are still loving her in return.