House of Blues, Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, NV
By Roy Rahl
Barracuda | Heartless | What About Love | Magic Man | Dreamboat Annie |
Kick It Out | Straight On | Let Me Roll It [McCartney] | Heaven | These Dreams |
How Do I Get You Alone |Day Of The Eagle [Robin Trower] |Fantasy Child – Nancy Wilson Acoustic Guitar Solo | Crazy On You |
Black Dog [Led Zeppelin] | Misty Mountain Hop [Led Zeppelin]
As near as I can figure it was 1977, at the old Sacramento Community Center, when I attended my very first rock concert with a few good friends. The group performing that night was Heart. The electricity and excitement of that performance were so powerful that almost forty years later I remember it like it was yesterday (it was also when Nancy Wilson would take her lifelong place as my ultimate celebrity crush). I would see Heart perform a few times more in the eighties, and even had the opportunity to speak with them during the tour for their monumentally successful self-titled album. But after that I never seemed to have the opportunity to see the sisters burning down the stage.
Until last night at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. It was a long time coming, and man it was good to see them again!
The thing I look for most when watching classic rock bands perform is their level of desire. Are they there to cash in on former glory or do they still have the overpowering desire to reach their audience they had when they first entered the business? That question was answered with the first song. They came out with a surprisingly high powered rendition of “Barracuda”. It set the tone for the entire night. They totally rocked the place.
This was the third and final night for Heart to play at the House of Blues, as well as the last night of what their tee shirt shows was a seemingly endless American tour going all the way back to January! It would be easy for a band on the road that long to just mail in the last show, get on a plane and go back home for the holidays. Not this band on this night. They treated a house full of devoted fans to high energy rock and roll filled with passion and enthusiasm. They played all the hits and threw in some interesting covers along the way.
In my mind Heart really has two personas: the pre-eighties and the post-eighties. I like both of them; but let’s face it, “Dreamboat Annie” and “What About Love” represent two distinctly different musical personalities. Heart had to survive the seismic shift that was the onset of the 80’s digital revolution, when “guitar bands” suddenly became dinosaurs to be replaced by the synthesized and sequenced new wave era. They had to change styles quickly or become another casualty of rock n roll. Well, Heart pulled it off quite famously. Seeing the sisters be able to do the same on stage in 2014 was a wonderful experience. They owned and embraced their diverse history in a way other bands may not have been able to pull off. They were equally comfortable in both modes. I really appreciated this.
At the end of the day it is clear the sisters still see themselves as all out rockers, even to the point of throwing in some amazing cover tunes. Heart performing Robin Trower’s “Day of the Eagle”? Did not see that one coming. And they absolutely nailed it! The Led Zeppelin pieces were not as much of a surprise as the Wilson’s have never been shy about their love of Led Zep, but man, they performed them so well! Anne Wilson’s voice is made to handle power chords and walls of sound and still be able to rise above with amazing tone and dexterity. To this day the lady is still willing and able to put it through its paces. She has lost nothing and remains one of the premiere singers of our time.
And then there is Nancy Wilson. Seeing her behind an acoustic guitar performing “Fantasy Child” brought back so many good memories of vinyl records being thoroughly trashed from hours of moving the needle back every three seconds while trying to learn that song on my guitar. She is also a bit underappreciated for her impressive rhythm guitar chops. She too holds nothing back. She is clearly enjoying her craft and left it all out on the stage (and the celebrity crush part … well, that hasn’t changed either).
From everything I have seen and read it appears that Heart loves tour. I hope so; I would love to see them again. They put on a great show.