Saturday, August 11, 2012

Heart rocks the Pac Amp

This review was originally published on The Orange County Register site on Friday morning, Aug. 10, 2012.

Heart rocks without rehashing

Ann Wilson belts out a song. Photo credit: Christine Cotter

Heart already delivered an energetic and hits-heavy 15-song set when that band performed at Honda Center in Anaheim earlier this year, yet the group’s return to Orange County Thursday night (Aug. 9, 2012), for another night at a packed Pacific Amphitheatre, was no mere recap.

While the obvious parade of smashes from the ‘70s through the ’90s was emphasized at both shows, the group’s 90-minute outing in Costa Mesa on a perfect summer night found sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson and their troupe spotlighting four new songs from their forthcoming album Fanatic, due Oct. 2.

As evidenced by the reaction to a night-opening version of the title track (with catchy electric blues fretwork from Nancy) and the blistering “59 Crunch” later in the set, longtime fans of the Wilsons’ hard rock are sure to be drawn to this new effort.

The reason for Heart’s recent artistic renewal is clear. Since the arrival of the fantastic Red Velvet Car album in August 2010, the band has continued to emphasize its blend of folk and rock, incorporating both into melodic songs that showcase Ann’s mighty soprano. In June, a wonderful box set, Strange Euphoria, further celebrated the legacy of these groundbreakers with a collection of demos, live recordings and rarities.

Indeed, the four new songs from Fanatic fit comfortably alongside Heart’s ‘70s-era Zeppelin-influenced material like “Barracuda” and “Mistral Wind,” both of which were among the best moments Thursday night.

Without fail, Heart stayed true to this new course, offering reworked blues-rock renditions of early staples such as “Heartless” and “Even It Up,” the latter of which, Ann explained, was the sisters’ demand that women get an equal chance to rock. Then there’s Heart’s softer side, notably exemplified by a beautiful version of “Dog & Butterfly” and the new ballad “Walkin’ Good,” featuring Nancy on vocals and Ann providing flute.

Even the ’80s hit “Alone” was masterfully rearranged here, with Ann’s vocals placed artfully against a backdrop of Nancy’s acoustic guitar and Debbie Shair’s textured keyboards. While Ann displayed plenty of dynamics in her performance, there was an authenticity to it that outdistanced the original recording.

Another highlight was another new song, the confessional “Dear Old America,” chronicling the Wilsons’ father, who served in World War II and Korea, and how those struggles impacted the entire family.

Throughout this fast-moving set, the sisters’ vocals harmonized in all the right ways. A true rock act as amped as ever and which really seems to have a great time on stage, Heart closed with a raucous cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop.”

Remind me again why they aren’t already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Setlist: Heart at Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, Aug. 9, 2012

Main set: Fanatic / Magic Man / Heartless / What About Love? / Mistral Wind / Even It Up / Straight On / Dog & Butterfly / Walkin’ Good / These Dreams / Alone / Dear Old America / Crazy On You / Barracuda

Encore: 59 Crunch / Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin cover)

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