REVIEW: Heart proves that they’ve still got a beat

When Nancy and Ann Wilson announced last year that they were reuniting to bring Heart back to the rock n’ roll fold, it was a joyous time for the rock n’ roll community.

Following a much-publicized incident that resulted in Ann’s husband being charged with assault after a tour bus incident involving Nancy’s teenage twin sons in 2016 — and the ensuing wedge it drove between the two — the future of Heart was in jeopardy. A period of dormancy followed, as both women went their separate ways, Nancy with her newly-formed Roadcase Royale, and Ann with her own version of Heart, sans her sister.

Fast forward two years. The winds of change have blown just long enough for the two to work through their differences and get back on the road as Heart for 2019’s  “Love Alive” tour. Needless to say, they’ve been welcomed back with open arms. But being accepted by the fans was the easy part. Accepting each other is another.

As seen onstage at Wells Fargo Arena Monday night, while the greatness that is Heart still exists, there’s some healing to be done yet.

Case in point were the band introductions. Each sister introduced the other sans anything other than a name. Their onstage repoire could best be described as congenial. For those paying attention, it was as awkward as it was telling.

It did not affect the music, however. The band stormed into openers “Rockin’ Heaven Down” and 1976’s signature hit, “Magic Man,” with the energy as if to say, “In case you had your doubts….” Then came the first transition, “Love Alive,” the Led Zeppelin-ish ballad featuring a beautiful flute intro by Ann, followed by a cover of Yes’ “Your Move” with its instantly recognizable multi-part chorus featuring Nancy on mandolin. Cover songs dominated the set, with the band performing no less than five of them. Nancy introduced Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” as a song they grew up with, and the ensuing performance was indicative of their appreciation of the song.

A laid back version of their monster hit from 1986, “These Dreams,” was good as well, but by then, the pacing of consecutive slow tempo arrangements had begun to take its effect. The crowd was a bit lost during “Dog & Butterfly,” and it wasn’t until the band got back on the rocking horse with “Even It Up” that things returned to normal. The band also took liberty with the arrangements of hit ballads “What About Love,” and later, “Alone,” with slower renditions, which were met with respectful applause. In a recent interview, Ann had expressed a disinterest in continuing to play things by the book, and these liberties taken may have been a result of that. Only they know. But what was certain was the pacing, or lack thereof.

As if on cue, though, the band broke into “Mistral Wind,” easily the band’s heaviest song, which could easily fall into the “heavy metal” category. It was as if the band recognized the audience had gotten sleepy and instead of waking them with with a tap on the shoulder went with a straight right to the chin. It worked. Nancy followed up with the intricate signature guitar intro of “Crazy On You” and all was well again.

If  there was a singular moment in which the sisters seemed to be sharing the same Heart (pardon the pun) of old, it was when Ann brought the flute out once again to accompany Nancy on acoustic guitar for a stunning rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” during the encore. Rocker “Barracuda” closed out the night.

It’s good to have Heart back, and the music community is better off for it. When they’re on the same page, the twins Wilson are virtually untouchable. Time does a lot of things, one of which is heal wounds. Once that happens fully, watch out.

Opener Joan Jett hasn’t lost a step three decades on from her mega smash “I Love Rock N’ Roll.” Jett’s comfort zone is definitely the pop/punk wheelhouse that brought her to fame in the early 1970s, first with the all-female group The Runaways, then during her own solo career. Songs like The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and her own “Bad Reputation” remain perfect fits for Jett, who came out dressed in her usual black leather, wristbands and “tough girl” garb. The music matched it. “Do You Wanna Touch Me?”, “Fresh Start,” and her ode to record industry execs who lost interest in her when album sales declined, “Fake Friends,” were stellar. “You Drive Me Wild,” the first song Jett ever wrote, is as simple and straight forward as the day she penned it, and the sing-along chorus of “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” sounded as good as it ever. Things got dicey when Jett stepped out of her lane with the strange echo/flange guitar effect on the cover of The Replacements’ “Androgynous” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” Sometimes it’s good for an artist to step outside the box, but for Jett, that’s simply not the case. Her voice is perfect for what got her there, and when she dipped into “Different Strokes For Different Folks,” it sounded weak compared to the sharp and in your face grit of “Victim of Circumstance.” If you like your rock easily digestible with no additives, Jett’s your go-to.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF KIMBERLY ADAMIS

Heart Setlist:
Rockin’ Heaven Down
Magic Man
Love Alive
Your Move
I Heard It Through The Grapevine/Straight On
The Boxer
These Dreams
Dog & Butterfly
Little Queen
Even It Up
What About Love
Mistral Wind
Crazy On You
Stairway To Heaven
Alone
Barracuda