Heart House of Blues November 4, 2010
See pictures of the Wilson Sisters in our slideshow from last night.
In trying to come up with a witty juxtaposition to open our review of Thursday night's Heart show, Aftermath was initially going to throw out a comparison to Jefferson Airplane/Starship, another band that peaked decades ago, enjoyed a brief resurgence in the '80s, then faded more or less into obscurity.
It wasn't until we started digging back into Heart's material that we remembered just how much of their catalogue provided a framework for AOR and classic-rock radio. Sure, everyone remembers "Barracuda" and "Magic Man" - or should, anyway - but the Wilson sisters flat-out owned the Dazed and Confused era: "Crazy On You," "Kick It Out," "Heartless," "Straight On," "Dreamboat Annie"... and that was before 1980. Clearly the comparison to be made isn't to Starship, but to Journey.
Hear us out.
Now, we realize Heart hasn't inspired not one but two video games, and Journey's Escape will always be one of the quintessential '80s albums, but there are parallels, from earlier success as a hard rock band to reinvention in as '80s power balladeers. Sure, Journey was much more successful overall, but at least Heart never tried to replace Ann Wilson with some chick they found on YouTube.
Heart opened for Journey a few years back as well, which draws our lame exercise to a close and brings us to last night's show, a packed affair for a band that drew an uncharacteristically (for Houston) enthusiastic crowd and helped Aftermath revisit our youth in more ways than one.
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We aren't sure where we'd been reading about the sisters losing steam recently - probably Pitchfork, those fuckers - but there was talk floating around about how Ann's voice wasn't what it once was, or that Nancy had lost a step. And this would be perfectly understandable (Ann is 60, Nancy 56), if it weren't demonstrably false.
From the first chords of the band's opening song, "Cook With Fire" from 1978's Dog and Butterfly, they were on top of it. Ann absolutely wailed, killing on standards like "Barracuda" and "Crazy On You" - as well as the encore covers, Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" and The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" - while Nancy was an assured, electric presence. Gone were the corsets and unfortunate high-kicks of the "What About Love" era (third song), replaced by a pair of sisters who seemed genuinely grateful to still be together and playing music after 35 years.
They stuck mostly with the hits, sprinkling in a few cuts from their latest release Red Velvet Car, but never straying far from bread-and-butter songs like "Straight On," "Magic Man" and stuff from their 1980s resurgence ("Alone," "These Dreams").
Ann and Nancy are the only original members left, but their backing players this time around were plenty solid, especially guitarist Craig Bartock, who took most of the soloing duties, and Debbie Shair, looking like a live representation of a Pokemon character behind the keyboards.
Aftermath has rarely seen the House of Blues this full, and... what a crowd. Rocks Off last saw Heart in '88 or '89 when we took a date to the Bad Animals show (not the first time we "compromised" our musical pedigree for the opposite sex), but Thursday night was largely a girls night out affair; "Soccer Moms Gone Wild," in case Joe Francis needs a new venture to pay legal fees.
We actually found ourselves in something of an uncomfortable situation when one lady, who apparently doesn't bend her elbow more than once a year, attempted to dance with us, and we're using a very loose definition of the term. She tried to close the deal by comparing high-school graduation dates:
She: When did you graduate?
Finally, we scored a senior.
Personal Bias: Our ulterior motives at the Bad Animals show aside, we've always liked Heart's music, even the '80s power-ballad stuff.
The Crowd If we had older siblings, they'd have been there. Mid-40s and up, majority female, probably all hung over this morning.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Captain Morgan and Diet Coke." Repeat.
Random Notebook Dump: "There's a 50-y.o. dude next to me belting out 'These Dreams.' I swear to God he's crying."
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Cook With Fire Heartless What About Love Straight On Dog and Butterfly These Dreams Hey You Even It Up/Gimme Shelter Red Velvet Car In The Cool Alone WTF (I think) Magic Man Crazy On You Barracuda
The Ocean (Zep cover) Love Reign O'er Me (Who cover)