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Heart, Joan Jett and Cheap Trick make a formidable touring trio

Rock Hall Three for All package tour closes out New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center summer concert season in fine fashion.

Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart during their Sept. 10 performance in Holmdel, N.J. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

By Chris M. Junior

The sexy selling point of this summer’s Heart/Joan Jett and the Blackhearts/Cheap Trick package tour happens to be smart and correct: They are all (finally) members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But there are other important common factors among the bands on the Rock Hall Three for All tour. Each has secondary hits that have aged well (shame on terrestrial radio for not playing them more often), and Heart, Jett and Cheap Trick can still bring it in concert, roughly 40 years after their debut studio efforts.

Both aspects were on display when the tour made a stop Sept. 10 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., the last concert of the season at the amphitheater. With the temperature closer to what you’d experience in mid-summer, Cheap Trick played first, beginning before the sun had gone down and before the prime seats were filled. That didn’t seem to bother the principle members: Robin Zander engaged the fans up front, Rick Nielsen flicked his personalized picks into the crowd and trotted out his vast collection of custom guitars, and Tom Petersson smiled often as he worked his 12-string bass. (Say what you will about Kid Rock, but in his speech inducting Cheap Trick into the Rock Hall in April, he nailed the essence of the band: No matter the circumstances of a given gig, these guys will always give you a quality show.)

Cheap Trick's Robin Zander (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Cheap Trick's Robin Zander (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

“She’s Tight,” a minor Cheap Trick hit from 1982, popped up early in the set, which included two songs from the band's latest album, “Bang, Zoom, Crazy ... Hello.” Zander showed he can still hit — and hold — the high note in the last chorus of “The Flame.” That song was followed by the expected-but-still-effective signatures “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender.”

Like Cheap Trick, Jett and the Blackhearts played for about an hour, mixing familiar and semi-forgotten material. They roared through the opening “Bad Reputation,” and Jett had no problem turning “Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)” into one big sing-along. “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild,” which both date back to her days in The Runaways, still sound great, as did “TMI,” from her most recent album, 2013’s “Unvarnished.” The Top 10 hits “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” “Crimson and Clover” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You” elicited the loudest crowd reactions (no surprise there), but one of the set’s best was “Fake Friends,” which was preceded by a brief story about the song’s origin.

Heart, the headliner and senior member of this Rock Hall-themed lineup (class of 2013), rocked the cream of its early crop (“Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda”) and choice hits from its mid-1980s resurgence (“What About Love?”, “These Dreams,” “Alone”) with equal verve.

About four songs into the band’s set, singer Ann Wilson paused to say that those expecting ProTools- or AutoTune-enhanced performances should just leave — she insisted there’d be “skin” instead. There was plenty of grit and guts, too, especially in her powerful performance of “Alone.” Sister Nancy Wilson had her standout moments as well, most notably her acoustic guitar intro to “Crazy on You” (later followed by one of her customary leg kicks). “Even It Up” and “Straight On” served as reminders that Heart’s initial catalog runs pretty deep, and the title track to the recently released “Beautiful Broken” album showed the Wilson sisters have plenty left in the tank.

The Rock Hall Three for All tour continues through the end of September, with stops in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.

Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Dax Nielsen of Cheap Trick. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Daxx Nielsen of Cheap Trick. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Heart singer Ann Wilson (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Heart singer Ann Wilson (Photo by Chris M. Junior)