Going to see your favourite band in concert is always a treat; the stage, the lights, the roar of the crowd as the band takes the stage and unleashes sonic thunder with their opening song. The journey of sight and sound not only takes you through the band’s catalogue of hits, it takes you through various stages of your life when any one of the songs being played before your eyes reaches into the deepest parts of your psyche, conjuring memories decades old.
That was the experience of many in the audience when Heart played a pair of nights at Niagara Falls to sold out audiences in the Fallsview Casino Avalon Ballroom. To say Heart is still as vital and riveting as they were in the 1970s and 1980s (their commercial heydays), is an understatement. Truly, with age and experience come wisdom and the art of honing your craft to perfection.
Everyone in attendance was gobsmacked by Ann Wilson…she is clearly at a high point in her personal and professional life.
photos by Andrew Vail
In a world of Auto-Tune, lip-synching and songs seemingly devoid of melody, chord structure and any sort of meaningful lyrical content, Heart brought to the stage something not oft seen in the pop world: raw, unadulterated music that was a display of musicianship and vocal prowess. Both nights the band opened with one of their first hits, Magic Man, then right into a grindingly funky take on Heartless. Everyone in attendance was gobsmacked by Ann Wilson. The legendary singer is going through a personal renaissance; recently married and clearly at a high point in her personal and professional life. Ann’s voice was as clear, powerful and captivating as ever. At 65, she can hit notes with such might that would leave singers half her age shaking in their boots. Take a lesson; Ann Wilson in concert is a master class in vocal technique blended with passion.
Nancy Wilson was a skipping, leaping, boogying blur of vitality as she bashed out electric guitar chords, and deftly plucked acoustic guitar and mandolin.
photos by Andrew Vail
As ever, Nancy Wilson was a skipping, leaping, boogying blur of vitality as she bashed out electric guitar chords, and deftly plucked acoustic guitar and mandolin. On the first night she took the microphone for a rare live rendition of There’s The Girl from 1987’s chart-topper Bad Animals as well as the Number 1 single These Dreams, a song she joked, “everyone has heard in an elevator somewhere”. On the second night, she replaced the former tune with a stunning performance of Elton John’s Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters, replete with beautiful guitars and lush harmonies provided by Ann and bass player Dan Rothchild. The band also added two rockers from their latest album, Fanatic, to the second night’s set: Dear Old America and 59 Crunch, both rife with power chords and roaring vocals.
Of course, a Heart concert wouldn’t be complete without staples like Alone, the chart-topping showstopper that Ann completely, flawlessly destroyed both nights in a row. Starting with an intimate, hushed yearning for the object of her affection to know her true feelings, the song explodes as Ann rides the key changes up to a pitch that not only exemplifies her mastery, but blows the audience away and sends every person leaping out of their seat for an extended ovation.
We ended up chatting with Ben, getting snapshots and just having a great old time…
The shows wound up with spectacular performances of classics Crazy On You and Barracuda, just two of the songs that earned their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. The encores were a nod to one of their major influences, Led Zeppelin: a mind-bending take on Immigrant Song, the sinuously hypnotic No Quarter, where Ann gyrated her hips and even howled to the undulating rhythm. Finally, it was time to stomp to Misty Mountain Hop, where the band played, laughed and danced along with the frenzied crowd.
You’d think after a night like that, there would be no way to make going to a Heart concert even better. Well, you’d be wrong. After the first show, we were in the concourse of the Casino chatting with a few other fans about the show when my friend Martin said, “Andrew, Ben Smith (Heart’s drummer) is standing right behind you!” We ended up chatting with Ben, getting snapshots and just having a great old time when it was suggested we go across the street for drinks.
As the name of their current tour says: Music=Love.
New friends… Heart Mongers! Photo by Sheila Richardson Gigante
Our delighted contingent of Heart Mongers — Ben included — headed over for cocktails and conversation. While there, we ran into Heart’s newest addition, keyboardist Chris Joyner and the aforementioned bassist Dan Rothchild. These are just the nicest guys who chatted with us and posed for pictures. We ran into Chris on the street the next day and chatted and joked for a bit and saw Ben after the second show, where he took the time to chat with everyone before the band headed off on the road to their next gig.
In a person’s lifetime, they will love a lot of music and be devoted to a few bands or musicians over the long haul. It is beyond rewarding and heart-warming to have the opportunity to not only see your favourite band just kicking it 40 years into their career, but to have these interpersonal moments where, for a little while, you feel like you’re part of the brigade. Heart is one such band. And for that, we say a most heartfelt Thank You! As the name of their current tour says: Music=Love.
Andrew Vail’s writing career began in Halifax when he was a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites. Andrew is currently working on the project queer50.com.
Tags: 59 Crunch
, Andrew Vail
, Ann Wilson
, Avalon Ballroom
, Bad Animals
, Ben Smith
, Chris Joyner
, Crazy on You
, Dan Rothchild
, Dear Old America
, Elton John
, Fallsview Casino
, Heart Mongers
, Magic Man
, Nancy Wilson
, Niagara Falls
, There's The Girl