Friday, November 14, 2014

‘HEART’ exhibits their extraordinary talents to Sold-Out Ruth Eckerd in Clearwater

Heart concert review:                                           
By Ray Shasho

Over the years, I’ve profoundly enjoyed every Heart concert that I’ve attended. Since the band’s debut performances in 1976 at small rock clubs like the Hollywood Palace in Baltimore County, Maryland, and witnessing the bands amazing climb to stardom after performing the following year at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, the newest and largest arena in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. I also saw Heart perform after I moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida at the Hollywood Sportatorium in 1979. The one factor all these performances had in common was not only the amazing vocalizations of Ann and Nancy Wilson, but equally as effective were the distinct performances by guitar hero Roger Fisher along with his prodigious bandmates Steve Fossen, Howard Lees, and Mike Derosier. Their fans weren’t only attracted to Heart because of its two amazing and beautiful singers; they were also drawn to the music by these incredibly cool musicians. I was disappointed when those bandmates had either been kicked out or left the band, and to be perfectly honest, after they left, I completely lost interest in Heart for quite some time.

But today, I hold a new respect for Heart as a band. Their consistency of touring and for persistently keeping their brand in the limelight is second to none. Heart has not only kept their brand in the limelight but has vastly helped rock and roll survive. Most recently in 2012, Ann and Nancy Wilson was involved in a rock and roll historical moment when they brilliantly performed Led Zeppelin’s“Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors while a teary-eyed Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones watched with absolute awe and admiration.

On Tuesday night Heart performed to a sold-out Ruth Eckerd audience in Clearwater, Florida and the crowd and I also watched with absolute awe and admiration. The band presented an impressive setlist and performed every song flawlessly.

THE OPENING ACT was the beautiful and talented Brynn Marie, a Nashville vocalist accompanied by an acoustic guitarist. The simplicity of a duo is sometimes more appreciated than an entire band; absolutely no room for error, the band performed admirably and definite crowd pleasers.

HEART TOOK THE STAGE to a thunderous roar from the Clearwater audience and immediately opened their set with the #11 Billboard Hot 100 Hit “Barracuda” from Heart’s second release ‘Little Queen’ in 1977. The song was intended as an angry message to Mushroom Records their label at the time. The band followed with “Heartless” released in 1978 for the ‘Magazine’ album. The song reached #24 on Billboard’s Hot 100. They performed “What About Love” next, the 1985 release that became a #10 hit in the U.S. from their self-titled ‘Heart’ album, and followed with one of their most recognizable tunes from the groups early era “Magic Man” a track from their debut release album ‘Dreamboat Annie.’
The sold-out Ruth Eckerd audience was on their feet throughout concert, and most dancing by their seats. The audience appeared to be mixed between Heart -aged and younger. There were a lot of attractive women dressed in Wilson Sister’s attire, much like a Stevie Nicks concert.

Heart ensued with “Dreamboat Annie” and “Even It Up” from the band’s fifth album entitled ‘Bebe le Strange’ released on Epic Records in 1980, the song landed at #33 on the Billboard’s chart. Next it was the Ann Wilson rockin’ composition “Kick It Out” from the ‘Little Queen’ album followed by “Straight On” from ‘The Dog & Butterfly’ release on the Portrait Records label in 1978. The song reached #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles.

Heart performed their first of many cover tunes of the evening, a Paul McCartney & Wings heavy rocker “Let Me Roll It” from the ‘Band on the Run’ album. Nancy Wilson did an awesome job performing the guitar licks on the song. The Wings hard rock classic was followed by Nancy taking a seat and playing acoustic guitar like a standup bass with a bow while performing a really cool psychedelic/middle-eastern track entitled “Heaven” with Ann Wilson on vocals and autoharp. Afterwards, Nancy Wilson took center stage to sing the Martin Page-Bernie Taupan penned “These Dreams” a #1 U.S. hit song released by Heart in 1986.

One of the loudest receptions of the evening came after Ann Wilson performed “Alone.” It was probably Ann’s most brilliantly performed song of the evening, pronouncing her amazing vocals and gifted talent. “Alone” also hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles charts in 1987. The ballad was released on the commercially successful ‘Bad Animals’ album (reaching #2 on Billboard’s Hot 200 albums chart). “Alone” was composed by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.

Surprisingly, Heart followed with a Robin Trower cover entitled “Day of the Eagle” and perhaps honoring the magnificent ‘Bridge of Sighs’ album which is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. Ironically, Robin Trower performed the next day in St. Petersburg at Jannus Live. I was a bit skeptical when I saw “Day of the Eagle” on the playlist, but guitarist Craig Bartock did a very nice job with the classic Trower track. Nancy Wilson took over the spotlight with her legendary acoustic intro to “Crazy On You” (1976) the final song on the setlist before an encore. The song is probably the most revered amongst the earliest Heart faithful. “Crazy On You” impelled an amazing energy throughout the audience propelling everyone to their feet, and many danced at their seats during the entire performance.

The band tried to say its goodbyes but the Clearwater audience was way too appreciative for them to end the show. Heart concluded the evening with three powerful Led Zeppelin covers, a band the Wilson Sisters had emulated throughout their entire musical careers. First “The Immigrant Song” from the Led Zeppelin III release in 1970, followed by an amazing rendition of “No Quarter” (1973) spotlighting the amazing keyboards and synthesizers of Debbie Shair. The final song of the night was Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” (1971). All three songs were impeccably performed by Heart.

The current HEART lineup is  Ann Wilson (vocals, flute, autoharp, and guitar), Nancy Wilson (vocals, guitars), Craig Bartock(guitar), Debbie Shair (keyboards, synthesizers), Dan Rothchild (bass), and Ben Smith (drums). 

It was an exciting evening and enjoyed by all. The shirt vendor made a killing as well. The show was phenomenal but one can still hope for a perpetuated Heart reunion and tour.

Heart was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 2013.

SETLIST: Barracuda, Heartless ,What About Love ,Magic Man, Dreamboat Annie ,Even It Up ,Kick It Out ,Straight On, Let Me Roll It (Wings cover),Heaven, These Dreams ,Alone ,Day of the Eagle, (Robin Trower cover), Crazy On You, Immigrant Song,(Led Zeppelin cover), No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover), Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin cover)

Very special thanks to Sacha Guzy

COMING UP NEXT … Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine,” “Shanty”)
and the legendary Trini Lopez (“If I had a Hammer,” “Lemon Tree”)

Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at
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