Heart Stafford Centre October 22, 2014
The tone of this review has already changed between Wednesday evening's Heart concert and today's news of Walters owner Pam Robinson's passing; in my case it was a matter of a simple drive into the office. It would have been a great show coming or going, but now it seems more important than ever to underline the achievements of strong women in music.
Although a lot has changed since the mid-'70s, the music industry is still dominated by men, locally, nationally and internationally. But if it's less dominated by men now than it was back then -- and it most certainly is -- it's because of the contributions of people like Robinson and Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson.
Wednesday night, the Seattle sisters rolled out of the gate with "Barracuda" and never looked back. There was Stonesy swagger on "Even It Up" and "Straight On," fire-spitting Little Queen deep cut "Kick It Out," the acoustic reverie of "Dreamboat Annie" (Ann picking up a flute), a forceful sisterly duet - with Nancy taking the lead - on Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It." When they got to the '80s, Nancy's electric mandolin scrubbed off a few layers of cheese from their blockbuster ballad "These Dreams."
With Nancy switching to bowed guitar and Ann picking up an Autoharp, they also conjured an advanced degree of mysticism that would impress even Robert Plant on a song noted elsewhere as "Prayer," which Nancy introduced as "unattainable unless you come to see us." And this too: they did an all-Led Zeppelin encore: a stampeding "Immigrant Song," harrowing "No Quarter" and a cheeky "Misty Mountain Hop" that sent everyone home with a spring in their step.
It was about as awesome as it sounds -- if a band is going to play Led Zeppelin songs live, please let it be Heart -- so really, that's all there is to say about the show except that it was a real pleasure to see it in the Stafford Centre.
Most venues in the Houston area are, ehhh...fine, give or take a shaker or two of salt, but Stafford's sound is so pristine it was possible to hear the power in Ann's vocals without the PA system. Every lyric and instrumental part registered clearly; when the sci-fi keyboards in the middle of "Magic Man" or the Bach-like organ sounds of "Alone" rose up, they enveloped the crowd like a fishing net. Nancy and lead guitarist Craig Bartock's tones were so clear a trained ear could tell blindfolded whether their instruments were solid or hollowbody.
Story continues on the next page.
But rather than go any further, we'd like to close with an excerpt from Nancy's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 2013, according to Heart's official Web site. She spoke those words last April, a full 12 years after the group first became eligible.
Not even sure whether or not Pam Robinson was a Heart fan, but it sure seems like she would have been.
We came from an era when women normally did not rock and women were not expected to be leaders. There were mainly four jobs for us to chose from then: teachers, mothers, nurses or waitresses...And becoming mothers has been the greatest most unbelievable gift of all.
So it's the biggest of all thanks that we must give to our kids tonight...Our best beloved little road orphans who loved us and forgave us for most of our sacrilegious absences. As working moms who have also seen a few parent-teacher conferences, I am EVEN MORE SURE that we deserve this Medal of Honor! These days our modern women are becoming strong and ferocious leaders from the boardrooms to the bedrooms. Equality is coming right along.
For us, music is the real church. Its a life calling. It's bigger than men and women put together. Music makes us all equal and perfectly human. Lost angels maybe, but lifted up by the absolute million soul thrills of music.
We're here to celebrate our lucky and perilous past. There were countless times in insanely extenuating situations where Ann and I just stopped and looked at each other and said, "Well...you WANTED this..."
But we're not finished rocking just yet. We are looking straight into the face of the future and we say: TURN IT UP!
Amen. And RIP Pam.
Personal Bias: '80s kid who grew up with "Never" and "Alone" on Top 40 radio, so did not come to fully appreciate Heart's talents until somewhat later; hearing "Barracuda" and "Magic Man" on KLOL certainly helped. What really turned my head was seeing them open for Journey at the Woodlands about four years ago. (I know.)
The Crowd: Totally into it. More dancing and yelling than any Stafford Centre crowd I've ever seen.
Overheard In the Crowd: "They've still got it, don't they?" - directly after the show
And Directly After That: "I can't believe you brought me to see Jimmy Page."
Random Notebook Dump: Fuck yeah.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.