When she first roared onto the stage in a black jumpsuit and leather jacket, pumping her fists at the crowd, Joan Jett’s voice could barely be heard. The crowd drowned her out with a repeating chorus: “I love you, Joan!”
Little else should be expected at a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts show. Jett is a longtime resident of Rockville Centre and Long Beach and a member of the inaugural class of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, and her fan base knows it. In Rockville Centre, Jett’s reputation is anything but bad — a sold out Madison Theatre was packed with screaming Molloy College students and local fans, and even Mayor Francis Murray clapped along from his seat in the second row.
“We love playing in Rockville Centre,” said Kenny Laguna, Jett’s longtime record producer and co-founder of Blackheart Records. “We still own a big house there together.”
Molloy was the first stop on Jett’s tour to promote her new album, which is due for release this summer. But playing the college was something of a change of pace for the band, which is accustomed to selling out large venues consistently.
“Joan loves to play small venues, and we’re usually playing really big ones,” said Laguna. “That whole complex — Mercy [Medical Center], the college — is a cool thing. We’ve lived in the area for so long, it was a no-brainer. And when we first got the offer, we thought our record would be ready. We were hoping to debut our record in the hometown.”
Although the record remains incomplete, the band debuted a number of new songs, including tracks Jett co-wrote with Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!). The crowd responded with the same enthusiasm they gave to hits like “Cherry Bomb” and “Bad Reputation.”
Meeting with fans before the show, Jett showed off her townie side, chatting with onetime WLIR DJ Denis McNamara and posing for pictures with fans. Her demeanor was proof of her affection for her fans — and her affinity for the area.
“Joan stayed in Long Beach during [Hurricane Sandy] and then moved right back to the house in Rockville Centre the next day,” Laguna recalls. “No water, no nothing. The storm totally wiped out her place. The yard was completely flooded when she left. She couldn’t even get out of the door — she left the house through a second-story window and climbed down a ladder. She looked like Little Orphan Annie.”