To put this show in context, Ann Wilson joined Heart in 1972. Her sister Nancy joined three years later in 1975. In my ’70s formative years, I’ll admit I was I less interested in the “Magic Man” of Heart than I was the “Magic” Olivia Newton-John. There was an early clue, folks. But I appreciate the longevity and many incarnations the Seattle-based band has endured. Having evolved from ’70s folk-infused rockers, to ’80s power balladeers, ’90s acoustic indie rockers, and back to their rock ‘n roll roots in the ’00s, Heart enters its fourth decade with a brand new record, Red Velvet Car. While the band has been around for nearly 4o years, it’s seen many lineup changes (25 different musicians), but two members have remained constant, and are arguably two of the most influential women in rock, Ann and Nancy. Respect.
Tonight, Heart played Hammerstein Ballroom, packed full of kids ranging from 30 to 60. It was a fairly balanced evening of ’70s and ’80s hits and newer material near and dear to the Wilson sisters’ hearts. New songs “Hey You,” “WTF” and “Red Velvet Car” are all fine songs, but it’s the classics that the crowd really wanted to hear. “Straight On,” “Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” “Dog & Butterfly,” and my favorite, “Crazy On You,” are such anthems of their day. Those five songs alone should get them an invitation to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
But speaking of “Alone,” it’s their ’80s hits that I grew up with. During the show Ann referenced that decade with bittersweet trepidation. Rock purists said they sold out in the ’80s, and you’ll recall it was the time when Ann gained weight and was humiliated with those music videos that simply zoomed in on her face. A sad commentary on the state of our pop culture back then. Fortunately I think that’s changing because she’s still here. It’s about the voice and the music. Ann’s voice is a phenomenal gift, known for its unwavering consistency in the recording studio. Her stripped-down version of “Alone” that she performed was simply remarkable. At 65-years-old, she’s still slaying it.
“Never” was another showstopper Heart performed off their 1986 self-titled album, as well as their first Billboard No. 1 hit, “These Dreams.” What’s ironic is that gifted guitarist Nancy provided lead vocals on this song, not Ann. I read that she had a cold when she recorded this song back in the ’80s which is why the recorded version you know has that raspy edge to it. All in all, a good concert that showcased the mad musical talents of Nancy (guitar, dulcimer, vocals) and Ann (flute, guitar, vocals). I just wish they would have performed, “What About Love,” “Nothin’ At All,” and “Who Will You Run To?” Where were those gems?