Friday, August 20, 2010
Heart; More Substance Than Style This Go Around
Church came early for me this week with the combination of a run-in with an old friend and the act of spontaneity. It was a muggy Saturday and my afternoon was free. I had read online that the legendary band Heart was playing a very small, intimate amphitheatre in Raleigh, NC. Although we had no tickets, we decided to take our chance by driving down and seeing who may extra tickets for sale in the parking lot.
Sure enough, standing right by the entrance gate was a woman holding up tickets that she needed to unload. We purchased them for the very low price of only $10 each and entered. I should have known right then that it was going to be a very special evening. The opening act was a new male vocalist by the name of Erick Baker who took the stage all alone and very vulnerable with only his acoustic guitar and the mic. His voice, very similar in vein to David Grey (reference provided from a friend) was amazing and he definitely poured his heart into each song. At one point, I remember hearing him and thinking that the song sounded very familiar. He was doing an slowed down, acoustic version of the Beastie Boys “You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party”, which he managed to pull off and make it work. Just a quick side note, please look into this artist for he is a very talented guy on the verge of a major break.
The sky started to fade to night and the air started to cool and the setting was great for an outdoor concert. Heart hit the stage about 9:00 and it did not take long to see that these ladies are truly the real deal. In a age of “here today, gone today” flavors of the week in the music industry, it’s always rewarding to see an act like Heart. The Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy for those not in the know, have been rocking out for over thirty years and still do not get the respect that they truly deserve.
Ann kept the banter between songs very short, acknowledging that there was a lot of history to cover and for the crowd to have a goodtime and enjoy the evening. The arrangements on some of the hits that they have been playing for years were toyed with just a little bit to give the songs a fresh interpretation. Their big hit from the eighties “These Dreams” showcased Nancy on mandolin which was a great artistic move on the her part. It really added to the structure of the song and made it, in my opinion, even better than the original version.
The band is actually touring this summer to support their new CD, “Red Velvet Car” and they played three tracks from it that night including the texting friendly appropriate song called “WTF”, which was actually a good little rocking tune. The band continued to mix up the classic hits from the seventies and the hits from their big, yet brief heyday in the eighties. Ann’s version of “Alone” was stripped down to an almost keyboard only performance that really showed why her voice is one that the most underappreciated voices in the history of music. How many times can you say that you have gone to a concert and that the singer’s vocals sounded even better live than on the CD itself? Ann’s voice live has that pure, raw emotion feel to it that gets stripped away during production in a studio.
All the seventies classics seem to have been spotlighted including the rocking “Barracuda” , “Straight On” and “Magic Man”. A very cool little “mash-up” was their classic “Even It Up” mixed with the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” which sounded amazing. A personal highlight for me was my favorite of their classic seventies hits “Dog And Butterfly” on which Ann can do no wrong. Such a beautiful song on which Ann’s connection with the lyrical content is an element lacking in so many singers today.
Heart fans know that the band is notorious live for doing some amazing covers of classic songs from bands that they are fans of. A prime example being the solid cover of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”. Well, the girls may have just topped themselves with the encore played this particular night. The two song encore started with a wicked cover of Zeppelin’s “What Is And What Should Never Be”.
What was about to happen next is one of those events that you feel honored to have experienced. At that point, we were taken to church by the Wilson sisters as they graced the crowd with a cover of the Who classic “Love Reign O’er Me”. Now, I am a Who fan and had even talked on Face Book with a fellow writer about the exact same song earlier in the day. To add to the irony of it all is the fact that I was even wearing a Who shirt that evening! What proceeded to happen over the next six minutes was nothing short of spiritual. The power of Ann’s voice delivering the poetic words of Pete Townsend’s masterpiece from Quadrophenia. That, combined with the superb musicianship supplied by the band, created one of the strongest musical moments that I think I have ever witnessed live.
Overall, the show was nothing short of a stellar display of pure talent. Artists like Ann and Nancy Wilson are rare in today’s music scene. True, back in the eighties, they did get caught up in that “packaged” artist machine that pushed style over substance, but it didn’t take them long to come to their senses and get back to what it was all about…the music. Did they play all the hits that night in Raleigh? No, quite a few of their big ones were left out, but just about everyone there walked away with a feeling of satisfaction and definitely getting their moneys worth. In today’s recession, that just doesn’t happen too many times.