Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Heart rocked a near-capacity crowd at the Orpheum Theatre last night with a great mix of classic hits and sentimental favourites.
The band last graced Vancouver in 2013 with their Home For The Holidays show which featured surprise appearances by Shawn Colvin and Sarah McLachlan. A tough act to follow for sure, but with a tiny bit of help from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts as their opening act, Heart may have raised the bar just a little last night.
The Seattle group, fronted by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, have sold tens of millions of albums worldwide and have written some of rock music’s most iconic songs – every kid with a Rock Band or Guitar Hero gaming system in their basement has rocked out to “Barracuda”. It’s fitting then that the Wilsons brought their Queens of Sheba Tour to Vancouver on International Women’s Day, as the sisters have been doing it for themselves for the past five decades.
Singer Ann was clearly in the mood to celebrate the special occasion. “The day of the woman…I think it should be the YEAR of the woman!” she told us before introducing “Even It Up” from Bebe le Strange.
“This is a song written back in the Seventies, when women were clawing for their equality. And of course now we have it 100%, right?”
The Wilsons have have had a long love affair with our city. The band recorded their debut album at Vancouver’s legendary Mushroom Studios and played several long-gone venues around town including the Empire Stadium.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of “These Dreams”, Heart’s very first number one single. Nancy, who performs lead vocal on the track, introduced it last night as “a love song from the 80s” and said “you’ve heard it in elevators, in the doctor’s office, in the library, outside of the library…we brought it with us because we love it. It’s a love song about the concept of being in love.”
The sisters then performed a soft, sparse new track called “Two”, which was written by R&B superstar Ne-Yo for the television show Empire (Nancy Wilson’s husband Geoff Bywater is a music supervisor on the show). Nancy sounded just fine on lead but the song really came alive when Ann chimed in on background vocals. “This is my favourite Heart song as of right now” said a woman behind me to no one in particular.
Halfway through the show, Ann took a moment to acknowledge the passing of Beatles’ producer George Martin who died earlier in the day. “He was a brilliant guy,” she said of Martin, “and now he’s gone on to something even better. He’s part of us forever, so we’re going to do this song for George Martin. We’re gonna celebrate his life and say ‘good luck on your journey’.” The band then launched into “Sand” from 2010’s pretty good Red Velvet Car album.
Heart alternated between big and medium-sized hits all night but pretty much ignored their entire post-1990 catalogue, depriving Vancouver the chance to sing lyrics like “I am the flower, you are the seed/we walked in the garden and planted a tree” in unison. Power ballads “Alone” and “What About Love?” were performed, but the rest of the setlist was comprised of rocking tunes from Heart’s prolific 1970s period.
Kick ass versions of “Crazy On You”, “Magic Man”, and “Heartless” made the cut, and so did a little James Brown courtesy of a few lines of “Get Up Offa That Thing” during “Straight On”.
As they do with most tours, Heart closed the show with a trio of Led Zeppelin covers – Vancouver got “Misty Mountain Hop”, “No Quarter” and a raucous take on “Immigrant Song”. Ann took Robert Plant’s already-great vocal to new heights as Nancy shredded away on guitar.
The Zeppelin tribute is certainly a must-see for anyone who hasn’t been to a Heart concert, but after having seen them perform live many, many times, I would’ve killed for a little more 80s and 90s cheese instead of the covers. And judging by some of the hairstyles I saw in the lineup for tour merchandise, a lot of my fellow Heart fans were clearly influenced by the band’s iconic videos from that era.
I get ditching “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You”, but to never do “Never” is, well, heartless.
Fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett & the Blackhearts opened the show with a loud, unremarkable 45-minute set. “I Love Rock n’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” had some of the crowd singing along but boring newer tracks like “Any Weather” and “TMI” tested the patience of even the most loyal Joan Jett fan.
Much better was a brief acoustic set by Serena Pryne and Nick Lesyk of Ontario’s Mandevilles, who performed songs from their latest album Windows and Stones.
The Queens of Sheba Tour plays Prince George on Thursday and Dawson Creek on Friday. Tickets for both shows are available here.