Lita Ford: Queen of Heavy Metal

By Josiah Horn

Have you ever made eye contact with one of your heroes and become overwhelmed by everything that this person is to you and its hitting you all at once? Because that is exactly what happened to me on June 26th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After over two hours of waiting outside in the rain, and several more hours of waiting inside, I was front and center as the Queen of Heavy Metal, the one and only Lita Ford, rocked the roof off the IDL Ballroom.

Before he passed away in 1970, Jimi Hendrix had been the one to predict that, someday in the future, women were going to play rock and roll. In 1975, that prediction started to come to life when Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Sandy West, and Jackie Fox came together as The Runaways. After The Runaways short but impressive and impactful tenure, Lita went on to earn the title “Queen of Heavy Metal” through the 1980s with platinum records, Grammy nominations, and guitar playing on par with Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton. She even broke herself AND Ozzy Osbourne into the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with the emotional duet, “Close My Eyes Forever.”

The show Saturday night in Tulsa was hosted by Eddie Trunk of That Metal Show (which Lita Ford was the first Special Guest of), and opened by Str8ght Shot, a local rock band. 

When Lita and her band took the stage with a monstrous performance of “Gotta Let Go” from her 1984 album, “Dancin’ On The Edge,” the very first thing that I noticed was how much fun energy was coming off the stage. No one was standing still, and no one could seem to stop smiling. Even though this was the final night of three shows in a row with no off days, the energy was just as high on Lita’s stage as I’m sure it was in the 1980s (I wouldn’t really know personally, having been born in 1998).

Lita and her band were close and interacted like best friends who loved every part of what they were doing, with Patrick Kennison on guitar along with Lita, Bobby Rock on drums, and Martin O’Brien on bass, the sound was heavy, full, and professional. Anyone with any appreciation of guitar-driven rock and roll would find their mouths hanging wide open at how good each member of the band was at their trade. I know I was blown away by the guitar solos from both Kennison and Lita, an extended drum solo from Rock that was impossible not to rock out too (no pun intended), and, as a bass player myself, I can’t help but hand immeasurable respect to O’Brien for holding down the groove on the bass all night.

From the moment I got in line for the show, I knew that there was excited anticipation and community in the air. The feeling of being surrounded by all different people who are present for the love of one person’s music is something I have sorely missed over the last year and a half, and that exact feeling was all around me in Tulsa Saturday night. People of all ages and genders were there from all over the four states, but even our differences didn’t stand a chance of keeping us all from becoming a family of Lita Ford loving rockers when she took the stage.

This night was a 90+ minute show that featured songs from her entire career, and a few covers of classic hits such as Elton John’s, “The Bitch Is Back,” Lita brought the evening to a close with everyone in the room singing along to her 1988 MTV Video Music Award nominated, “Kiss Me Deadly.” 

After a lifetime of being told that girls can’t play rock and roll, Lita has proved the haters and critics wrong time and time again, and she will continue to be a role model for women, girls, and everyone else for years to come. The last 20 years has seen floodgates open for women leading rock and metal bands, and that is in no small part thanks to the glass ceilings that have been broken by Lita Ford and The Runaways. The rock and roll world still has a long way to go before women are truly fairly represented, but it’s powerful women like Lita Ford that have been and will continue to bring the world to where it needs to be.

Setlist:

Gotta Let Go

Larger Than Life

Relentless

Hungry

The Bitch Is Back (Elton John cover)

Playin’ With Fire

Falling In and Out Of Love

Back To The Cave

Cherry Bomb (The Runaways cover)

Black Leather (Sex Pistols cover)

Out For Blood

Only Women Bleed

Close My Eyes Forever (Patrick Kennison singing Ozzy Osbourne’s part)

Kiss Me Deadly

Photos by Josiah Horn

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