August 9, 2012
Costa Mesa, CA
Review by Chantel Donnan
Photos by Ron Lyon
As long as there have been songs to sing and guitars to play, talented ladies have been turning the music industry on its head. Lady Gaga pointed out that it’s OK to rock out because we were “Born This Way.” Pat Benatar chased away scrofulous Johns with a shimmy and a powerful chorus, and inspired the rest of us to do the same — after all, love is a battlefield. But before the other girls stepped forward for a first mic check, there was Ann Wilson, and Heart.
The legendary 70s band played Costa Mesa’s Pacific Amphitheater, bringing the fire with some of their greatest hits and new songs off their upcoming album, Fanatic. They opened the night with the title track from the new album, emphasizing their love for music, art, and the lives they are leading. Ann put her hand to her heart as she belted out, “I gotta have it, I gotta use it, I gotta own it, And never lose it...I’m just a fanatic.” As we hooted and hollered for them in the stands, Ann and her sister Nancy smiled warmly, remarkably gracious to have such a receptive crowd.
Heart jumped headfirst into some of their most renowned songs, playing “Magic Man,” “Heartless” and “What About Love,” without so much as a breath between them. Ann’s voice was flawless as she hit those high notes, cementing her place in rock history as one of the strongest female vocalists (seriously, this woman puts the power in “power ballad”). The band also played some lesser-known tracks, like the 1979 song“Mistral Wind.” I’ll admit, I’d never heard this song before, and the delicate, beautiful acoustic opening that eventually gave way to heavy rock guitars and Ann’s quintessential belt blew me away.
Heart even redressed some of their hits for this performance; the opening of “Dog and Butterfly” employed the keys instead of guitars, which gave the song a sweet, simple vibe, like something from a little girl’s music box. The girls also showed fans just how much musical talent there is between the Wilson sisters throughout the performance. Ann played guitar and flute as well as sang, and Nancy sang a few songs as well as played guitar and mandolin.
Possibly one of my favorite performances of the night was a song off the new album called “Dear Old America.” Ann explained that she and Nancy wrote the song for their father, a career military man whose life had been drastically affected by the wars he had witnessed. The song opened with a sweeping, dramatic keyboard solo, the sort of thing you might hear from a classic Disney soundtrack. However, it wasn’t long before the band was back in their rock 'n roll niche. Nancy jumped around as she played her guitar, even throwing in a few moves I’ve only ever seen on a ballet stage. Ann whipped her hair around, and sang with intense passion and skill. If I hadn’t already been convinced to buy the new album, this display would have done it.
As expected, the night wrapped up with stellar performances of “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda.” This was the first time I could find anything to critique, as the notoriously aggressive, fast-paced “Barracuda” had been slowed down considerably for the evening’s show. However, while I was disappointed by the tempo change, I had to give credit to Ann because singing the song slower meant holding the high notes longer, and she handled it like the the queen of rock that she is. And besides, the band’s quick encore of “’59 Crunch”’ and Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” more than redeemed any previous shortcomings. All in all, it was the ideal Heart show: I was reminded of the greatness of a band like Heart (their career was recently celebrated by the three CD and single DVD box set Strange Euphoria), and wound up excited to see what else is to come.