Members Of The Band:
Anne Wilson (Lead Vocals, Flute and Autoharp)
Nancy Wilson (Guitar, Mandolin and Vocals)
Dan Rothchild (Bass)
Ben Smith (Drums, Percussion)
Debbie Share (Keyboards)
Craig Bartock (Guitar)
Jason Bonham (Drums on tracks 14-20)
(Monday, June 16th) So, once again here I am doing one of these evening before the concert sort of deals. Even though the sisters Wilson more likely than not have no inkling of the troubled history their band and I have had over the years, I won’t hold that against them. I first saw Heart opening for April Wine at the Oshawa Civic Auditorium soon after the release of their first album. Good night… Bad night… it really didn’t matter. I thought they sucked, as did any number of my concert attending compadres on that particular evening. My first impression? Sounded good on record; kinda sucked live.
The next time I heard them live was on an old bootleg LP Secret Heart Illustrated. You know what? They freaking rocked. This recording was taken from a radio broadcast of a show the band did a little under four months after I first saw them live. How the hell could it have been the same band?
Jump forward a few years. The next time I actually saw Heart live was when they opened for The Who in July of 1980 at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition Stadium. They were amazing; I was dumfounded. How could I have been so off in my initial impression of this band in a live setting?
As I mentioned above, perhaps they just had an off night in Oshawa. Perhaps my buddy and I had smoked a little to much Mary Jane. We may never know. In hindsight I get a feeling it was probably more of the later rather than the former.
This past winter I received an email informing me that presale tickets for Heart, live in Oshawa, were going on sale that very week. Upon reading this my mind had one of those kind of time slip kind of things that Riff Raff sang about in The Time Warp. Heart? Live in “The ‘Shwa”? Oh my, I was SO going to be there.
An aside now if I may. One definite benefit of being single again is the fact that it is much easier to get a great seat to big ticket concerts. Witness my purchase of a single ticket to see Sir Elton John live in Hamilton two days before the actual date of the concert. Seventh row right in front of the man himself. Just how wicked cool is that? For Heart I am going to be sitting in the 6th row on Nancy Wilson’s side of the stage. I’ve always had a soft spot for Nancy Wilson so this was going to be awesome beyond telling.
(Tuesday, June 17th) I am very happy to report that Heart did not disappoint. Firsts of all, my seat turned out not to be 6 rows back on Nancy’s side of the stage. My ticket turned out to be 6 rows back, dead centre. And when the sisters Wilson came out to the end of the ramp which extended from the stage I was in the second row. A truly pleasant surprise even before note one was played.
From the distinctive opening riff of Barracuda right the way through until the last notes of Stairway to Heaven died away and the band were taking their well deserved bows Heart just kept the energy coming. Anne has lost absolutely none of her distinctive vocal chops, swinging effortlessly from the tough as nails vocals of Heartless straight into the plaintive opening lines of What About Love she was spot on all evening long. And when she bared her soul and hit the high notes during Alone my heart damned near broke, so amazing was her voice. That song brought the house down.
Her sister, Nancy was no slouch either whether she was chugging away on rhythm guitar, high kicking to emphasize a particularly aggressive chord, providing a wonderful counterpoint on backing vocals or taking lead vocal duties on Heart’s take on the old Paul McCartney and Wings chestnut Let Me Roll It.
From Barracuda they deftly went straight into the Magazine gem Heartless followed closely by What About Love. It was after the third song that Ann first addressed the crowd. Much of their opening set focused on their heyday of the 70’s early 80’s. Nancy introduced Dreamboat Annie as a song they used to play for their parents. Even It Up rocked even more so than the studio version, which itself was killer. They even introduced Little Queen into the set for the first time this tour, apologizing that they were a bit rusty. Believe me folks, they weren’t. They played Heaven, a wonderful song which starts out dirge like with Anne on autoharp, Nancy bowing her acoustic guitar and Craig Bartock playing lap steel on his Danelectro. That song has yet to receive official release. They played one new song, the middle eastern tinged grunge Mashallah, from their most recent studio effort, 2012’s Fanatic.
And then it was time for Jason Bonham to join the festivities. The sheer joy on his face as he helmed the songs his father had so many years ago was worth the price of admission. While the pairing may seem strange, Heart have always been legendary fans of Led Zeppelin, frequently sprinkling the odd song or three of the mighty Zepp into their sets from the earliest days throughout their own storied history. The fact that their take on Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Centre Honors tribute to Led Zepp brought tears to Robert Plant’s eyes should leave no doubt that these two women from Seattle are worthy indeed.
Speaking of Stairway to Heaven, on this particular evening in Oshawa (and, maybe every evening on the current tour) Jason could be seen sitting at his kit, singing along as Ann lovingly sings the opening verses before Bonham’s drumming is called to duty. When it comes to the “and the forests will echo with laughter” part, Bonham silently mouthed Robert Plant’s “Does anybody remember laughter” adlib from the Song Remains The Same soundtrack, giving a big number 1 salute with his finger upon hearing many in attendance singing the lines. A small thing, I know, but it was one of those moments, one of those live understated flourishes that take my love of concerts from the sublime to the ridiculous. As fate would have it, someone captured the whole song in stunning close up. I’ve included the video below.
But before they got there, the Wilson sisters kicked off the second set with their glorious take on The Battle of Evermore, a song they covered in their side project, The Lovemongers. With Anne on acoustic guitar and Nancy on mandolin, trading off vocals… goose bumps people, we are talking goose bumps. A loving, more faithful to the original studio version, reading of No Quarter followed. Next up Jason counted in the song that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant wrote about their audience with its classic “We’ve done four already but now we’re steady
and then they went: One, two, three, four”. An The Ocean was off and strutting. I swear the grin on Bonham’s face will probably follow me through the rest of my days, regardless of how many times he has played his fathers music. The punchy attack of Immigrant Song; the majesty of Kashmir; the haunting Rain Song lead up to the evening’s piece de resistance, the aforementioned Stairway to Heaven.
And then, like all good things in this life, it was over far to soon.
So, Heart and I came about full circle. A show back in 1976 that was probably better than I remember to a show that was probably better than I will ever know. Funny old world, eh?
Heartless (Mohegan Sun 2013)
What About Love (Montreal)
Dreamboat Annie (Oshawa)
Even It Up (Montreal)
Little Queen (Ottawa)
Let Me Roll It (Montreal)
These Dreams (Montreal)
Magic Man (Oshawa)
Crazy On You (Montreal)
Battle of Evermore / No Quarter (Oshawa)
Battle of Evermore (Montreal)
No Quarter (Montreal)
The Ocean (Montreal)
Immigrant Song (Oshawa)
Rain Song (Montreal)
Stairway to Heaven (Oshawa)