The Rock Hall Three For All tour has a fairly self-explanatory hook: Its trio of participants -- Heart, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Cheap Trick -- have all been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during the past three years.
But the truth is, they'd have no problem being packaged together anyway.
All three bands have a touring history together -- tour headliner Heart and Cheap Trick date back to the '70s, and Heart and Jett have hit the road together extensively during the past couple years. "We all know each other and like each other, so it's cool," Heart's Ann Wilson said the day before the tour's Thursday kick-off at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in suburban Detroit.
And, added Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, "It's all good bands, bands that have stood the test of time. We're all still making records, too, and that's almost unheard of."
And rest assured that none of the musicians were running around backstage brandishing their Rock Hall trophies.
"You sort of accept the induction with gratitude, and it's flattering to be recognized, but really it's just about going to work and just loving the music," Wilson explained. "So we're not all going, 'Hey, we're Rock and Roll Hall Famers!' The Hall of Fame hook is something that was sort of put on the tour after the fact. If one or both or all three of us had never been inducted, it would still be the same. But if people are on the fence and they go, 'Well, all three bands are in the Rock Hall...' If that's going to make them come to the thing, it's worthwhile."
The Rock Hall Three For All show packed plenty of hit-filled value into its efficient three hours and 45 minutes, which was marked by quick set changes, no-fuss staging (primarily a large rear-stage video screen) and, in two of the three cases, set lists heavy on what 15,000 fans -- of all ages -- wanted to hear.
The three acts did not collaborate at all, but they made a point of paying homage to their own heroes as well as showcasing their respective Rock Hall-worthy repertoires. Cheap Trick roared through the Move's "California Man" but really scored with a surging rendition of the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For the Man" sung by bassist Tom Petersson. Jett, of course, had plenty of hit covers in her 55-minute set, right up to Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" and the Arrows' "I Love Rock and Roll," as well as Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People." And what would a Heart show be without getting the Led Zeppelin out, which the sextet did during its encore with a pairing of "Immigrant Song" and "Misty Mountain Hop."
All three also took time to establish some current relevance with material from recent albums. Jett and company rocked through three from 2013's Unvarnished, while Cheap Trick offered up "Heart on the Line" from its Bang, Zoom, Crazy...Hello album, released just a week before its April induction into the Rock Hall.
Heart, meanwhile, has a brand-new album to promote, Beautiful Broken, from which it drew four songs on Thursday -- not an unreasonable number, but perhaps too many in a truncated 70-minute, 14-song set. And one of those, Ne-Yo's "Two," sung by guitarist Nancy Wilson, was sandwiched between "These Dreams" and "Alone" as part of a momentum-stopping mid-set slowdown. After Cheap Trick and Jett's blazing performances, Heart went for a more dynamically varied ebb-and-flow. It did rock with the likes of "Wild Child," "Bebe Le Strange," "Crazy On You," "Barracuda," Beautiful Broken's thrashy title track and a slinky treatment of "Straight On" that Ann Wilson -- maintaining her powerful voice all night -- introduced with a bit of James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing." But they carefully balanced those with gentler moments such as "What About Love?" and an ace new version of "Sweet Darlin'."
But Heart left a few too many of its key hits, particularly 1976's career-starting "Magic Man," on the floor for opening night. The omissions were glaring, and on opening night at least, it made the headliners' set slightly less start-to-finish exciting than its tourmates' performances.
The Rock Hall Three For All tour runs through Sept. 23.
Opening night Rock Hall Three For All Tour set list:
What About Love?
Bebe Le Strange
Crazy On You
The Immigrant Song
Misty Mountain Hop
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts:
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
You Drive Me Wild
Light Of Day
Make It Back
Love Is Pain
I Love Rock And Roll
Crimson and Clover
I Hate Myself For Loving You
Baby Loves To Rock
Top Of The World
Heart On The Line
Stop This Game
Bass solo/Waiting For The Man
I Want You To Want Me