Sunday, December 29, 2013

Heart - The Band, Not the Body Part

by Bill Holmes

In the last seven or eight months there have been three Heart concerts on TV. This is a short review of those concerts and some observations. First of all, let me say I really like Heart and have liked them for many years. I liked them back in the day when Ann Wilson was hot. The video below is from 1976.   

This post is not so much a critique of each concert, all of which were very good, but of the changes or evolution I see of the group. Group may not be the right term. Ann and Nancy Wilson, sisters, along with a few musicians make up Heart. The musicians have changed over the years but the Wilson sisters remain the focal point. Ann is the lead singer, Nancy plays the guitar does backup vocals/harmony and occasionally sings lead. They do mostly big power ballads that Ann sings.
Ann & Nancy Wilson - AKA Heart

I recorded the first show in May, the second in August and the last, a Christmas special, just a few days ago in December.  

The first concert was from 2010 that aired on PBS, yes it was a fundraiser. It is titled Heart: Night at Sky Church. Ann sang 11½ of the 12 songs and had a strong voice all the way through. There was a very little raspiness after five or six songs but a great concert. Ann never left the stage during the televised edit of the concert. For this show Ann was very heavy. If you can find this concert on PBS or YouTube websites or anywhere else you should watch it. The girls and the band are terrific. 

The next show was recorded in August and looks like it may be from 2013. It aired on AXS and was titled AXS TV Presents Heart. This show had a whole different vibe. The first show had  been almost entirely Ann front and center. This seemed more like the Wilson Sisters. Ann looked a little thinner but certainly not skinny. Nancy took the lead on a few songs and also did some of the MC work. I think Ann's voice had deteriorated since the previous concert. Not bad, the girl can still sing. Nancy took the lead on a couple of songs and took center stage on a few instrumental breaks. The act is a little more even although it's still mostly Ann's show. If you come across this concert on AXS, record and watch it. More good stuff. 

The next show was Heart & Friends: Home For The Holidays on AXS that was aired on Christmas night. It is from 2013. It also shows some more evolution of Heart. This concert had some other performers. The Wilson girls looked and sounded pretty damn good. Ann's weight looked to be between the other two shows. Nancy always looks good. I guess Ann's voice will always have some rough edges now. Not unpleasant and she still mostly sounds like classic Heart. 

This concert included some guest performers. Shawn Colvin was first up. Not one of my favorites. Nancy Wilson accompanied her on two songs. She also took over the MC duties. Next up guest Richard Marx sang a duet with Nancy. She then sang two duets with Sammy Hagar. All this time, five songs, Ann was offstage and out of site. Both Wilsons then sang a song with Pat Monahan of Train. Heart finished the concert with a couple of their classic hits. Ann's vocals were strong. They also did a cover of Stairway to Heaven which is absolutely great. They performed the song for Led Zeppelin when that band got the Kennedy Center Honor Award. It was a thrilling rendition of a classic song. There is no doubt that the Wilson sisters still have chops.  

These were all great concert shows. Heart is still rocking. It is not a bad thing that Nancy is stepping up a little. She is a good singer and musician. She does lack the overpowering voice that Ann has at least some of the time. They have a large catalog of hits and still sound damn good. They just sound different. Three concerts over a couple of years is not a statistically significant sample. Maybe Ann had a bad night, maybe Heart had performed several nights in a row, maybe Ann had a cold. Maybe each concert was edited differently. I don't have those answers. I do envy anyone who can perform and sing for forty years. 

Before writing this I didn't realize how old the Wilson sisters are. Ann was born in 1950 and Nancy in 1954. Not quite as old as I am, but certainly in the neighborhood. For some reason I thought they were 10 or 15 years younger. We all lose a little bit when we reach a certain age. Heart is still many times better than the vast majority of groups that have come along since they hit the scene. 


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