Rocket Queen: Heroes & Villains

Two chances to see tributes, and one shot at the real thing.

The successful execution of a rock biopic is up there with producing a genuinely frightening horror film or shooting an erotically imaginative porn flick. It's just not easily done, and when it fails, it's particularly painful to watch.

The Runaways opened last weekend to generally favorable reviews, with respected critics like Roger Ebert praising the performances of scenery-chewing Michael Shannon (in a legitimately lurid portrayal of abusive band manager Kim Fowley), Dakota Fanning (as blonde, glam-rocking frontwoman Cherie Currie), and Kristen Stewart (as the band's most successful graduate, Joan Jett). While it doesn't break the mold structurally (the familiar trajectory—naive beginning, triumphant overnight success, and rapid decline—is followed faithfully), the tone and energy of the film is undeniably entertaining, and in truth a fittingly cheap thrill that suits what the band really was: groundbreaking (and heartbreaking) in terms of sexual politics, but ultimately inconsequential artistically, save for a choice pop-punk nugget or two.

What is most important about the Runaways is that the band served as a harsh but ultimately empowering training ground for Jett, who at a tender age learned tough lessons about what she wouldn't tolerate in the music industry. Fowley may have exploited them sexually and fiscally, but that drove Jett to the DIY approach that she follows to this day, running her own label and maintaining ownership and close control over her public and private lives. Since self-releasing I Love Rock 'n' Roll nearly 30 years ago, Jett has owned and operated Blackheart Records, recorded 14 more albums (including 1995's Evil Stig, a tribute to late Seattle musician Mia Zapata) and toured incessantly, including a stop Saturday in Shelton.

The Bowie-worshipping Currie would no doubt appreciate the lavish tribute to her hero at the Moore this Friday, as the Seattle Rock Orchestra follows up last fall's cover of Arcade Fire's Funeral with a broad survey of David Bowie's back catalog. The 86-piece orchestra will be backed by local pop outfit the Kindness Kind, a 30-member choir, and an impressive selection of guest vocalists, including the Posies' Jon Auer and Aqueduct frontman David Terry. Orchestra arranger Scott Teske promises plenty of classics, including what he describes as a "special mashup version of 'Heroes.'"

rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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