Jett gets up close and personal at Coyote's

By Kevin Gibson

It took Joan Jett a moment to decide, but she ultimately conceded that she preferred the intimacy of a small club to the magnitude of a large arena when performing.

They both have their strong points," said the veteran rocker during a September telephone interview. "It's great to be in front of 18,000 people and seeing that many people be enthusiastic about what you're doing, but in a situation like that you're real far away from the crowd, at least 20 feet from the front row.

To me that's a really loose connection with the audience. I prefer to be in a small setup. I like when the audience is close to the stage and close to the band. It makes the audience feel really close to the show. I like when you can reach out and touch people."

That said, she must have enjoyed the Sept. 16 show she and the Blackhearts delivered at Coyote's. A full house was on hand, and the bravest Jettheads crammed in close to the stage near enough to be sprayed with Jett sweat.

Opening with her anthemic "Bad Reputation," Jett took the audience through a refresher course, a surprising reminder of just how many notable songs she's released, including "Do You Wanna Touch Me?," "Crimson and Clover," "Everyday People," "Little Liar" and "I Love Rock and Roll."

An extended version of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog" led into Jett's 1988 smash "I Hate Myself For Loving You." A brief, powerful encore included a raucous version of "Wild One."

The Blackhearts also played a handful of new songs which will appear on the band's next album, due out in early 1997. The most memorable was the bluesy "Androgynous," the story of an androgynous couple who exchange roles as well as clothes.

The brave souls up front had plenty of opportunity to interact with Jett, who showered them not only with sweat but winks and smiles as well as a cyclone of energy. The former Runaway made it clear that twenty years in the music business hasn't quelled her enthusiasm a bit. Clad in a black rubber tank tip, leather pants and dog collar (with a tiny bell, no less) and sporting close-cropped hair dyed bright red, she looked a little like Green Day's Billie Joe. If the new 'do was a bit startling, it at least said she isn't interested in stagnation.

She and the Blackhearts also found time for "Love Is All Around," a cover of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme song that was a surprise Top 10 hit for the band earlier this year. The song also gently passes along Jett's message that women can do anything they put their minds to, whether it's wielding an electric guitar, dunking a basketball or climbing the corporate ladder.

A sitcker on her guitar exclaimed "Girls kick ass." Enough said.

Almost as entertaining as the show was the diversity of the crowd. From bikers to frat brats, people from all backgrounds filled Coyote's to pay homage to a longtime rock icon. Jett seemed to succeed in breaking through the boundaries imposed on today's music by playing what she always has: straight-ahead rock.

There's so many different classifications now," she remarked during the phone interview. "This broad term 'alternative,' really doesn't mean anything anymore. I've seen that applied to bands that are heavy metal or folk. I've seen myself classified as heavy metal, rock, punk, power pop. . . "

And none truly apply, she concluded. "In the end, I'm a rock and roller, bottom line."

Opening the show was Detroit's neo-glam quartet Trash Brats.

All hair, makeup and ugly women's clothing, the Brats looked like they got into a time machine in 1979 and rocketed directly onto Coyote's stage. Their theatrics startled the middle-of-the-road Jett fans at first. The band didn't give up, however, and ended up winning some fans before yielding the stage.

The Brats were energetic and entertaining, pumping out one pop-flavored punk number after another with surprising verve. They're still an indie band, but don't be surprised if a label like Reprise doesn't snatch them up before long.