LIVE: Heart @ the Palace Theatre, 7/27/15
Review by Greg Haymes
“We’ve got a lot of decades to pick from,” explained singer Ann Wilson, as though she were mentally perusing Heart’s catalog of songs. And the crowd roared its approval. “This one’s from the ’70s,” she proclaimed, and the roar tripled in volume, which was a rather clear indication that a) the average age of the nearly sold-out crowd at Albany’s Palace Theatre skewed heavily toward the baby boomer end of the spectrum and b) in Heart’s career arc, the band’s best work was its earliest music.
But Ann Wilson may have been stretching the truth a bit with the whole “decades” thing. While Heart has released some 20 albums in their nearly 40-year career, in fact, at the Palace Theatre on a recent Monday night, half of Heart’s 85-minute, 13-song set-list was culled from the ’70s. Four songs were drawn from their ’80s MTV-era, which was primarily dominated by glossy power ballads. And the band played only one song – “Dear Old America,” the weakest song of the evening – from their post-’87 recorded output.
But that’s really a minor quibble. Ann Wilson is still a stunningly powerful singer, conjuring up a hurricane-like howl on such vintage nuggets as the opening “magic Man,” the relentlessly galloping closer “Barracuda’ and most obviously on the ballad “Alone,” which in concert was stripped of its overblown production, as well as the band’s rhythm section, giving the singer the full focus and plenty of freedom.
Sister and guitarist Nancy Wilson played a solid second fiddle most of the night, although she stepped up to handle the lead vocals on the poppish “There’s the Girl,” a rather generic cover of Elton John’s “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” and the big ballad “These Dreams” (the band’s biggest hit and easily her best vocal effort of the night). And her flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar intro to “Crazy On You” deftly build the drama and the tension.
A cadre of about 30 different musicians have passed through the ranks of Heart over the years, and the current batch – drummer Ben Smith, guitarist Craig Bartock, keyboardist Chris Joyner and bassist Dan Rothchild – sounded as good as any behind the Wilson sisters, especially Rothchild, whose onstage energy and big, fat, round riffing – especially on “These Dreams” – helped carry the day.
And after including covers of Elton John and Seattle garage-rock kingpins the Sonics (“The Witch”) in their show, it wasn’t much of a surprise to find Heart embracing their major musical influence, Led Zeppelin, for a three-song encore/tribute of “The Immigrant Song,” “No Quarter” and “Misty Mountain Hop.”
Tim Mack’s review at Metroland
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “And then came the encores: 20 minutes of three Led Zeppelin tunes, something they typically do, but the surprise was how well they do it, how the songs transformed the band, and particularly Ann Wilson, into something else. First they nailed the frantic ‘The Immigrant Song,’ Wilson getting up into the higher scales and sounding a lot like Robert Plant. Next came ‘No Quarter,’ the ghostly epic that Wilson dug into and lifted up, all the band members rocking their Zep parts, looking like kids finally getting to play their favorite toy. Wilson herself seemed the most animated. These guitar-heavy songs can sound like mish-mosh for those who don’t know the tunes — and there were many Heart fans unsure what was going on from the looks of their blank faces. They closed the show with ‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ Wilson at her liveliest, singing lines like, ‘So I’m packing my bags and going to Misty Mountain . . . over the hills where the spirits fly.’ For all their records and hits, it is surprising that they end the show with obscure covers of another band. But it’s more surprising how cool they became playing these songs.”
HEART SET LIST
What About Love
Kick It Out
There’s the Girl
Dog & Butterfly
Mona Lisa & Mad Hatters (Elton John)
Dear Old America
The Witch (the Sonics)
Crazy On You
The Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)
No Quarter (Led Zeppelin)
Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin)