With Brynn Marie
Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Sunday, November 9, 2014
You wanna polarize and/or destroy musical canons? Go ahead. If you've flown into the full fancy of sacrificing a sacred cow, nobody is going to stop you because, clearly, you're a crazy person. Or maybe you've flown into the sun. How would we know, you heap of ashes, you?
Good. Let's meet half way. Let's talk about Heart and let's talk about what you'd expect.
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What you'd expect and receive are two different things. You'd expect a ride, a free ride. Heart opened with a tour de force that never looked back; quite frankly, it was nothing but full on balls and gumption from the second the spotlight descended upon Nancy Wilson.
After that, it was pure rock and roll bliss.
Touring mate Brynn Marie opened up the evening with a spirited, 40-minute performance that was a chockfull of middle-era Linda Ronstadt music. Perhaps a little too much given her relative younger-ish age, but now that I've had the jurisprudence of thought, maybe not; Marie really brought a good, even-keeled opener for Heart fans. As young as she is, we can only hope that she comes into a full fold and starts releasing albums of unadulterated originals very soon.
She was that good, her pipes are that strong.
Let's break here real quick.
When the Wilson sisters sit around the island range at home, they simply can't, under any circumstance, device a set list this good.
Who the hell opens up with "Barracuda?" Even if it's a beat or two slower than usual?
You know who does? Overtly confident players who have something up their sleeves! Because this is what I thought ... We can only move on out with two scenarios: a) Blow the load now, early, on them -- no one will know what hit them, and/or b) we're all going to burn in hell, slowly.
But it wasn't. "Barracuda?" Yes! "Barracuda" followed by "Heartless." And "What About Love." And "Magic Man." Yes. That is confidence. That is saying we might fuck it up or give you the best night of your life.
After Ann whipped the flute out for "Dreamboat Annie" we knew we'd be in for a treat, and that treat would come under the guise of "workplace" equality with the band and a sharp reminder of how greatly these women can rock. Their 1980 charting hit "Even It Up" brought it to fruition right before they went full meta with "Kick it Out," a song three years the previous one's junior, but no less in gumps.
This deep into the shenanigans, the band decided to introduce themselves. Before we get into that, let's discuss the particulars -- Ann broke it down in the sense of a household responsibility with drummer Ben Smith and bass player Dan Rothchild holding down the rhythm fort and establishing a foundation. Rothchild is the epitome of a ne'er-do-well who just so happened to be on the stage with a goofy smile and the promise of remembering a certain set of chords.
His Motörhead, "Everything louder than everything else" t-shirt should've given it away. This is not the Heart of three years ago. Oh no, this is a serious, ass-kicking unit of destruction -- and as part of the rhythm section, he held.
But then they did "Straight On," showing an extremely balanced sensibility to their entire overture. Following this up was the band's favorite Paul McCartney and Wings tune "Let Me Roll It." What an excellent segue to their ongoing jammer "Heaven;" an unrecorded, but nightly jam in the vein of pretty good stoner college rock, invariably described by the neophyte crowd as "Soundgarden meets Black Sabbath."
Observe and report, right?
And while people are trying to make a head or tail of it, they snuck in '80s megahit "These Dreams" in the minute lull, just enough to keep pace and offer an MTV Unplugged-version of the track, soft and sensible -- beautiful and gentle, with enough oomph to make it memorable; but memorable enough to sneak in "Alone" immediately after and no one was the wiser.
Guitarist Craig Bartock and keyboardist/synths-chef Debbie Shair did a marvelous job of retaining the integrity of the band's '70s roots without sacrificing their continuous movements through rock and roll. There should be some credit there. Heart will always be the Wilson sisters, but it is nice to know that the supporting set of characters is every bit as accomplished, regardless of tenure-ship.
And do you know what they did right towards the tail end of things? They created speculation with a frilly version of "Silver Wheels" leading (traditionally) into "Crazy On You."
Would Coral Springs resident and pudgy-love-buns-forever heir to the Led Zep helm Jason Bonham join the crew for an encore? No. But people certainly thought it'd be a repeat of tours of yesteryear. Not a bad angle, but this is exactly the kind of rampant thought processes that occur when you open with your biggest hit.
But, way to go Wilson sisters.
When exactly did your love affair with Led Zeppelin begin?
You've not only given the most evenly-paced concert set list experienced at the Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood this season; a career-encompassing (as far as fans are concerned) gig filled up front with all the hits and plenty of nuanced pitches that kept them fresh. No, you've taken the encores for closing with a triple-punch of Zep's "Immigrant Song," "Mistral Song," and another Zep favorite, "Misty Mountain Hop."
Many Heart fans will split between Ann's belted from the midsection bangers and Nancy's ethereal poems. But in the end, Heart has been a little on the schizophrenic tip when it comes to performing live, but last night's show was proof positive of their enduring hold on pop music's sensibility.
And that's exactly why they can fly into the sun. And live the very next day to sing to us about the scalding beauties of its excess.