SARATOGA SPRINGS – THERE COMES A MOMENT when the band is on stage and when that moment comes everyone knows it.
The Moment generally occurs late in the musical set - strategically placed to accelerate momentum toward a grand finale - and when it happens, it transcends space and time. The moment is introduced with a series of notes plucked on guitar, or the beat of a drum, or a voice that taps a foggy, yet familiar memory. It happens with a song you heard more than million times during this summer or that, but have not heard in a long time since. And when you hear it once again all the feelings of the original moment come rushing back to remind of a time when the world was new and anything possible.
Those moments came often last week at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on a night that featured a trio of bands, each capable of producing shared memories.
For Cheap Trick, it came during “Dream Police,” posted at the tail-end of a 60-minute set and featuring longtime Tricksters Zander, Nielsen and Petersson on a checkerboard stage. Nearly half the songs of the band’s set appeared on the “Live at Budokan” sessions a generation ago. The set included fan favorites “Surrender,” and “I Want You to Want Me,” as well as a weird mash-up of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man” and “Heroin,” with guitarist Rick Nielsen channeling his inner Robert Quine, shredding and slashing his six-string noisemaker in a discordant symphony.
For Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the moment came during her rendition of the early-80’s hit “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Jett’s Blackhearts hit the ground running, providing a solid sonic foundation to support her performance of “Bad Reputation,” “Fake Friends,” and “Love is Pain.” There were sturdy covers of Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover,” Sly Stone’s “Everyday People,” Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Light of Day” – the latter accompanied by a video reel showcasing Jett’s duo with actor Michael J. Fox in the 1987 film of the same name, on a backdrop.
Jett revisited her days with The Runaways in a staged reproduction of “You Drive Me Wild,” and “Cherry Bomb” – the latter being a timeless ode to troublemaking teen-hood that somehow did not seem out-of-place in the hands of the 57-year-old performer.
Heart, headliners of the night, reached back to the 1970s to perform “Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” “Kick it Out,” and “Straight On,” and came full circle on a 40-year timeline when they delivered “Beautiful Broken,” from their just-released album of the same name. Truth-be-told, Heart sounds better today than they ever did.
Guitarist Nancy Wilson’s extended two-minute acoustic guitar introduction that morphed into “Crazy On You” brought the crowd to its collective feet, and sister Ann Wilson’s amazingly still-vibrant-after-all-these-years vocals kept the crowd standing, showcasing her talents most notably on the power ballad “What About Love?” and the double-barreled dose of the band’s Led Zeppelin-inspired encore, featuring “The Immigrant Song,” and “Stairway To Heaven,” and including Wilson’s invocation of Robert Plant’s now-legendary ad-lib: “Does anyone remember laughter?”
You couldn’t have imagined a triple-bill featuring Heart, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick taking place in the 1970s, but touring 2016 style makes for strange stage-fellows. On a late summer day marked by a passive-aggressive weather front that was both slogged by rain and filled with sunshine, no one in the crowd was complaining, with nearly four hours of music supplying endless options for each to find their own special moment.