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Town Talk: Eric Burdon, Joan Jett rock out memories at Festival Park

Joan Jett her bperform Elgin's Festival Park. | Courtesy~Jillian Martin

Joan Jett and her band perform in Elgin's Festival Park. | Courtesy~Jillian Martin

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Updated: September 28, 2013 6:08AM

I’m not a huge concertgoer. If I’m going to go to a show, it is going to be someone I want to see for a reason — often for what that artist meant to me at point in my life.

And Joan Jett and the Blackhearts filled that requirement.

I wanted to see the show Saturday at Festival Park in Elgin, put on by the Grand Victoria Casino for its first “GVC Rock N Roll Jackpot Concert Series,” because I remember recording “I Love Rock and Roll” onto cassette tape from the radio. I remember, as a teenager in North Dakota, thinking how cool it was to have a woman rocking out on my radio — still rare in the music business.

Apparently, 3,600 or so people agreed with me. Although numbers (ticket sales) were still being counted, Grand Victoria believes that is the number that filled Festival Park Saturday night — more than double what they thought they’d bring in for the first-ever outdoor concert for the casino.

This success will help bring in big acts that can continue to show the area what Elgin can do, said Glenn Keenan, the executive chef at the Grand Victoria.

A success, it was.

Meeting expectations

Joan Jett was exactly what I thought she would be. She proved that age is just a number — and at 54 she can rock it out just as she did in the 1970s with The Runaways and in the 1980s with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the band name she still tours with today.

She put on a 75-minute show, mixing songs from The Runaways — such as “Cherry Bomb” — and her classic songs, such as the aforementioned “I Love Rock and Roll” and “Bad Reputation.” Jett mixed in several new songs from an upcoming album, set for Oct. 1 release, “Unvarnished.”

Just watching the crowd react to her was — as at any concert — an interesting experience. There were adults well into their 60s who likely heard her play with The Runaways back in the ’70s, 40-somethings like me who loved her in the 1980s, and teenage boys and girls who might have first become aware of Jett and her music through the 2010 movie “The Runaways.”

Animals magnetism

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts capped off the evening, but the opening acts definitely brought their A games, too.

Eric Burdon and the Animals were a crowd-pleaser, playing both Burdon’s original music and bluesy covers.

A quick Google search showed that “Rolling Stone” put Burdon in the top 100 vocalists of all time. His mix of blues covers also ensured that whether you knew him or not, you were going to get a good show.

A few bugs

But before the Grand Victoria and Ron Onesti — the promoter who brought the show to Elgin — put on their next concert at Festival Park, there are a few more bugs to get worked out.

According to Grand Victoria folks, they know what those issues were and plan to get it right before the next show.

The seating was set up in sections — with the Ace section in front, followed by King, Queen, Jack, and Wild Card. However, the people sitting behind me in the “King” section were overheard saying, “I wonder who is sitting in our chairs.” They’d dumped their “Wild Card” lawn tickets and made their way to the closer seats pretty quickly.

From what I heard after the show, those “Ace” ticket holders weren’t very happy that the stage was rushed, and they had to stand the whole time to see Jett’s performance. They paid for premium seats, only to find that lawn ticket holders were now standing in front of them.

If promoters want to ensure premium ticket holders are satisfied with their experience, there needs to be a better way to make that happen.

I went to the show with my friend Jillian, a veteran of Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza festivals. “They paid for premium tickets — they deserve to have a seat and a view.”

But that premium seat might not need to be directly in front of the stage. Performers feed off the audience’s energy, and having people sit in their chairs doesn’t do that.

Overall, the show was exactly what it should have been — and proves there is an audience in Elgin for concerts in Festival Park.

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