Night At Sky Church
A few short years ago, it would have been easy to write off Heart. Ann and Nancy Wilson, the sisters who are — let’s face it — Heart, spiraled off track in the 90s, devoting much of their time to side projects like the Lovemongers and soundtracks (mostly Nancy for her then-husband Cameron Crowe), along with a little soul searching and family fun. They regrouped as Heart, brought in new personnel like guitarist/songwriter Craig Bartock, and came back strong with 2004’s Jupiters Darling. Tons of touring, reconnecting with a colorful past and six years later, Heart rolled out Red Velvet Car and it was if the girls had never left the building. Armed with the new songs and spine-tingling arrangements of their library of classics, Heart played to a hometown Seattle crowd on March 5, 2010, and filmed the show in glorious high definition. A year later, Night At Sky Church arrives on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, capturing a truly electrifying performance from one of rock’s most enduring bands.
Rockers like “Barracuda” and “Straight On” tend to bring out the best in Heart. Ann can still hit the notes and skate through the melodies. Nancy and Bartok seem to strike a nice balance on the guitars, while the rest of the band (keyboardist Debbie Shair, bassist Kristina Attard and drummer Ben Smith) keep an adequate pace and play within the lines. “WTF,” the first new song rolled out, may well outshine the classics for sheer machismo and vigor. Ann’s voice is an eerie siren, echoing through a driving rhythm. No doubt, a few heads in the Experience Museum that night might have had a Hendrix vision.
Producer Ben Mink comes out to play acoustic guitar and violin on two more new ones, “Hey You” and “Red Velvet Car,” before Alison Krauss joins in and sings “These Dreams.” When the Wilsons and Krauss harmonize, it’s as if the clouds have parted, the sun is shining and you haven’t a care in the world. They later revisit the possibilities on “Your Long Journey,” a song Krauss recorded with Robert Plant on the Grammy-winning Raising Sand. The party comes to a head when Mink and Krauss both bow their violins on another new one, the vibrant, “Safronia’s Mask.”
Once the guests are whisked off, it’s pretty much a hitfest — “What About Love,” “Alone” “Crazy On You” and an encore of “Magic Man” (preceded by yet another new song, “Sand”). The playing is tight, crisp and faithful to the originals, for the most part. The bonus tracks section anchors the lightness (“Back To Avalon”) and heaviness (“Kick It Out”) of Heart, leaving little room for negotiation. Other Heart DVDs like Alive In Seattle feature the band on the comeback trail; on Night At Sky Church, Heart are more than back — they’re safe, sound and ready to rock on home turf and beyond.
~ Shawn Perry