October 25, 2014
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Barry Bond
Valhalla They Are Coming: The Wilson Sisters Deliver The Go(o)ds
Much has been said about the contribution the co-founders of the band Heart, Ann and Nancy Wilson have brought to women in rock and roll, but after another sterling performance Saturday Night at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, the discussion should be about their contribution to the genre as a whole, no gender required. It was precise yet loose and full of nuance, with all the cornerstones of their illustrious career hit upon plus some expected and not surprises. One in particular got all the British blues rock fans in the audience losing their collective minds.
With their canvass being a bare bones and open stage, with nary a backdrop and reliance more on lighting that would have satisfied Led Zeppelin in 1973, all blue and red hues, the band came out of the gates with a fury as the familiar riff of "Barracuda" foretold of an evening so full of hits that you can open with your biggest and still have gas left in the tank. The tempo of the track was pulled back a bit for no other reason I could hear than to allow for the rhythms to not get outpaced by the speed. Right from the go it's the Ann and Nancy show, with the formers pipes sounding as strong and thunderous as in 1977 and the latter, a guitar goddess full of struts, hops and some of the best melodic playing from the AOR era. "Heartless" soon followed and all you could do was sit there and think "how"? How are they able to assemble a killer band, play with such effortless grace yet still stay fresh and engaged? Their appearance last week with the Foo Fighters on Letterman was indicative of their ability to stay relevant, be adored by their peers and have their catalog still epitomize great rock and roll. Saturday Night was a further indication that 37 years in, the future is still theirs.
"Magic Man" and it's simple but effective opening salvo riff and 70's vanguard, the MiniMoog section which lent to its foray into Prog rock if only for a moment before launching back into the pulsing melody punctuated by "try try try to understand" of Ann's plea to her mother. For 40-somethings, this was our youthful elixir, you couldn't turn the dial without hearing that debut album, and it was gold. For a time when the only females letting their hair down were The Runaways, and with all due respect, their talent was one-tricked. Heart expanded the palette and let it be known that Zeppelin had libertine rival. The mandolin and flute of "Dreamboat Annie" were sublime, leading the way for the 1-2-3 of "Even It Up," "Kick It Out" and "Straight On"; in the span of 15 minutes they eclipsed most bands entire works for quality assured rock. As audiences we love surprises and challenges and that is what we got as Nancy gave Ann's pipes a rest as the band took on Paul McCartney & Wings 1973 juggernaut "Let Me Roll It" complete with the slinky riffs and come hither bottom end. Nancy's voice is the whiskey to Ann's silk but equally as effective.
In order to prove the worth of still going to concerts, the non-album track "Heaven" was played completely with Nancy utilizing a bow (Pagey would be pleased) and guitarist Craig Bartow showcasing some tasty slide work. What begins as mellow séance comes full circle to a gospel of sorts playing brilliantly off their ability to move with agility within the music space. The mid-80's slew of tracks that got them back in the industry's good graces, a period based off of video prowess instead of actual songwriting, came forth with "Alone" and "These Dreams," 20-years later are certainly more bluesy and less orchestrated given them a stronger appeal to long time fans, the cheese has turned to wine. What came next took all the "dudes" in the crowd of 5000 by surprise as the band tore into the mid-70's blues-rock benchmark "Day Of The Eagle" by Robin Trower. Lots of silver-foxes high-fiving as the guitars just re-tooled the perfection of Trower's radio killer. And of course never to be outdone by others, their own benchmark "Crazy On You" opened the floodgates for pure rock glory. Nancy's opening acoustic passages, a bit of LZ III mixed with her own ethereal folk tunings paved the way for the flamenco bonsai intro, from there is it was all Ann with her voice never breaking, and just soaring, in full control the entire time throughout the evening. The good Lord does indeed hand out incredible gifts to those he knows will use them properly. The regular set came to a close but the gathered bodies knew what they were in for next, a triple shot of the Hammer of the Gods.
Its all but expected for the one band that is capable of capturing Led Zeppelin in a bottle and Heart delivered as thunderous "Immigrant Song," mythological "No Quarter" and rubble rousing "Misty Mountain Hop" were given a good kicking. The only way possible for Heart to actually try and top their own show was to plunge into the depths and conjure up the spirits to perform the "Holy Grail" material of Led Zeppelin. Homage is not even a word here it's a summoning.
Heart introduced a great many to rock and roll in its glory days of arena rock, trends have come and gone, bands have come and gone, nature has reared its head and yet here, 37 years to the year, Heart stand as a testament to greatness and longevity that great music can provide. And to think, they've only just begun.