Heart Assert Their Place in Classic Rock Hierarchy With Impressive Live Performance
They might technically be the opening band for this summer’s Def Leppard tour, but at their concert earlier this week at the Blossom Music Center near Cleveland, Ohio, the first ladies of rock and roll who we know and love as Heart came close to stealing the whole show.
The night before, in a special appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, vocalist Ann Wilson spoke of how “you have to marry rock” to be authentic. On this evening, these brides wore black and there was little doubt as to the sincerity of their presentation.
Heart always comes to the stage loaded for bear, and they wasted no time in getting down to business with their tried and true show opening cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock And Roll.’ Prior to getting fully indoctrinated in the school of Heart, there was a time when this writer would scratch his head, wondering why they would waste valuable setlist time with Zeppelin covers when they could be playing more of their own songs instead?
But just watch Ann Wilson tear through any one of a number of Zeppelin songs and you too, will become a believer. Aside from Robert Plant in his prime, there’s no one better equipped to sing these songs. Besides, they’ve been associated with Heart for such a long time at this point that it feels completely natural.
‘Rock And Roll’ served as a very loud statement of the intentions that Ann and Nancy Wilson had for their allotted 70 minutes of stage time. Ann spelled their goals out even more directly a little while later: “There’s only one thing we’re here for - we’re here to rock.'
The statement that might have sounded cheesy, except for the fact they were spoken after Heart dropped a three song opening run that included ‘Rock and Roll,’ ‘Magic Man’ and the relatively obscure ‘Magazine’-era rocker ‘Heartless.' It was pretty clear they weren't messing around.
Lead guitarist Nancy Wilson, criminally underrated in her field, was thankfully back at full guitar-playing strength after an earlier summer incident that left her with a fractured wrist.
Bouncing across the stage and sticking in plenty of her trademark scissor kicks, especially during the always epic ‘Crazy On You,' Nancy brought extra bolts of energy to the high octane set with her invaluable presence. For ‘Crazy,’ she came center stage, deftly and somewhat delicately picking out the opening notes, exhibiting a good amount of flair as the final sounds of the introductory portion rang out.
The Heart stage show is rather stark in comparison to the over the top staging from Def Leppard. However, with a powerhouse vocalist like Ann and the superb overall musicianship of Heart, the extra toys are clearly unnecessary, as Ann made clear during our recent interview with her.
At the Rock Hall appearance, Wilson spoke about how music recorded in the ‘80s might have had more staying power if there had been fewer layers of production applied in the recording process. The trio of ‘80s Heart hits featured sequentially in the next night's setlist, ‘What About Love,’ ‘These Dreams’ and ‘Alone’ proved, even with still-generous amounts of polish, that they deserve a respected place in the band's history.
Furthermore, the song ‘WTF’ from last year’s ‘Red Velvet Car’ album proves that the band still remains vital as a recording entity. It featured a ferocity that made it fit well next to the band’s ‘70s output, with all of the band members seemingly possessed by mystical tribal rhythms.
After roughly an hour on stage, The Wilson sisters came out for an encore that went back to the Zeppelin well once again for an acoustic run through ‘Battle of Evermore,' then wrapped their 12 song setlist up with a version of ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ by the the Who, another setlist staple. Ann Wilson’s incredible vocal display during this song likely left many in the house wondering, how is Def Leppard going to follow that?
Well, as you can see in the second part of our review from this evening, Def Leppard did pretty darn well.