Over the Weekend: Heart at the Gibson Amphitheatre
On Wikipedia, the band Heart pops up in search results before the blood-pumping organ does. From the ecstatic beer and arm swaying rapture rattling the Gibson Amphitheater Saturday night, it's possible that over the last 35 years, Ann and Nancy Wilson have become more popular than the most precious human muscle. At least for people in their 40s and FM radio junkies.
Though Heart continues its legacy in the hands of 13 year old boys playing Guitar Hero, this was mom and dad's night out and the kids could stay at home raiding the liquor cabinet. This was a night for power ballads, for high kicks, for rape and murder (in a Rolling Stones cover), and a chance to get to know Meatloaf's daughter Pearl, who opened the show.
Pearl had blonde curly long hair and wore a black backless onesie with flared legs that billowed as she did the rock and roll side-step, quickly backing away from the mic between lines only to grab it ferociously for the next phrase. Joined by a supergroup of sorts, her band included husband/Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy, Jim Wilson of Mother Superior and Marcus Blake of The Rollins Band.
Her energy blended Janis Joplin with Celine Dion. Her scratchy voice probably comes from training as opposed to Southern Comfort and cigarettes and she hit the high notes with pop fervour and hand gestures reminiscent of that Canadian lady besieged by the "power of love." Not a revolutionary mind-melting sound of tomorrow, but she warmed up the audience with the standards of recent past.
Then came Heart. When Ann Wilson emerged from darkness carrying a flute, three-quarters of the room forgot how to breathe. She said, "Nothing left to do but open each other up and let our soul sing out. Ok? Ok!" and led us through Heart's discography without missing a hit. There was a time in Heart's career when cameras were all on Nancy, but at this show Ann was center-stage and in focus the whole time, with Nancy preferring to loom in the shadows, hopping and high-kicking. The only time Nancy seized all attention was in the inimitable intro to "Crazy On You." Many of us played along as if a black plastic guitar materialized before us, counting red, yellow, red, blue, red-yellow, blue, red-yellow, green+whammy...
"Alone," "These Dreams," and "What About Love?" brought back the glorious '80s, when the power ballad found its most enduring form. Heart also offered some new songs, such as "Red Velvet Car," which may sound like a euphemism for genitals but actually refers to the person you call when you're super drunk to pick you up.
The highlight of the night belonged to the 1970s, in a back-to-back "Magic Man, "Crazy On You," and "Barracuda" triple slam as well as a badass Led Zeppelin cover during the encore. There was a moment during "Crazy On You" during one those amazingly high notes when Ann reached down and scratched her wrist. She held the attention of thousands transfixed by her voice (which is sounding tip-top), and could still just scratch her wrist like she was waiting in line at the supermarket. It reminds us that humans are capable of wondrous things and still remain human.
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