Newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart stopped by Sleep County Amphitheater on Friday in Ridgefield, WA en route to the final show of their Heartbreaker tour which also featured Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.
Suffice it to say, Ann and Nancy Wilson broke the glass ceiling for women in rock a long time ago. Call it another “causality” to the silliness of the voting panel deciding who gets into the Rock Hall – Heart belonged there years ago and Friday’s show proved it.
Ann Wilson’s vocal prowess gives her the title for one of the best female voices in all of rock history. Add to her talents on stage, sister Nancy, who can out play anyone in the Top 10 today on the guitar, and you have a formula for greatness. Really, is there better eye candy than an already fabulous looking woman, laced up in all black, strapped to a guitar?
The evening didn’t start so well with a slow and somewhat cumbersome “Barracuda” which sounded more like the band trying to iron the wrinkles out at the start of the tour. But “Heartless” the first track off their 1978 effort Magazine proved timeless and third up – “What About Love” showed Ann defying time and a months’ long tour.
At the age when most women are thinking about, if not settling into retirement, Ann at 63, looked nowhere near her age and she not only sounded fresh but her vocals were biting and strong. That smoky rasp to her lower octave is pure rock and that cutting falsetto – perhaps a bit of the edge lost but you’d never know it live – so prominent throughout the evening especially on the heavy “Mistral Wind.”
“Magic Man” – there’s a reason it’s a staple on classic rock radio – and the head bobbing “Kick it Out” showed the girls in prime form. They mixed it up a bit with the title track from 1978’s Dog and Butterfly using heavier keyboards giving the song a much different almost whimsical feel. It did not measure up to the studio version. Heart played nothing from last year’s Fanatic instead sticking to their 70s and 80s material.
Nancy needed no spotlight to shine, but front and center by herself, she thanked the crowd and dedicated the Elton John song “I Need You to Turn To” bringing her soft melodious voice and the acoustic guitar to life which she followed with the hit “These Dreams” showing not only heart but that the band has two solid singers.
The emotion laden “Alone” featuring just the Wilson’s and keyboardist Debbie Shair lost some if its punch since it got toned back a bit with the exclusion of that thundering entrance to the chorus. But Ann’s raw vocals still managed to bring chills.
Ann dedicated “Dear Old America” a solid hard rock number to her father, a marine, as well as all who have served. Heart finished the first set with one of the finest rock songs ever recorded, “Crazy on You,” featuring that most recognizable intro with Nancy’s classic sounding guitar.
The ladies now officially own Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” which they opened the encore with as a duet – both sisters on vocal duty with Ann on guitar and Nancy on the mandolin. It was one of their finest moments. Jason Bonham, who opened the show with his Led Zeppelin Experience, returned to the stage for the five final songs.
Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, performed admirably, however the evening remained with Heart. “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Immigrant Song” were done so well you forgot they were cover songs. In fact, Ann sang the Led Zeppelin songs better than her own songs. “The Rain Song” was slow and drizzly, much like a typical winter day in the Pacific Northwest and could have been dropped from the setlist.
However, despite the talent on stage including an extra guitarist, “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven” are indeed Zeppelin anthems. Heart did justice to “Kashmir” but the churched-up “Stairway” with the addition of a large choir was borderline silly. The song remained the same for the most part but the embellishment took away from its grandeur.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience opened for Heart and cranked through six Led Zeppelin songs starting with “Rock and Roll.” Bonham is a solid drummer and how he found lead singer James Dylan is a small miracle. Dylan’s vocals were uncanny to Robert Plant’s and when he hit the falsetto’s you’d swear Dylan was lip sinking to a recording.
Yes, he sounded that good.
Much credit should be given to Bonham who did a solid job with his band and his humbleness simply adds to his credibility. He appeared nervous at times and even quite emotional when addressing the crowd but he genuinely sounded thankful to not only the crowd but for the honor to play his father’s music.
If it’s in the cards, a bigger production and amped up stage show could turn Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience into what Brit Floyd has done for Pink Floyd.
Heart Portland Setlist (Sleep Country Amphitheater):
- What About Love?
- Magic Man
- Kick it Out
- Mistral Wind
- Even it Up
- Dog and Butterfly
- I Need You to Turn To
- These Dreams
- Dear Old America
- Crazy on You
- Battle of Evermore
- Misty Mountain Hop
- Immigrant Song
- The Rain Song
- Stairway to Heaven
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience Portland Setlist:
- Rock and Roll
- Black Dog
- Over the Hills and Far Away
- Houses of the Holy
- Nobody’s Fault But Mine
- The Ocean
- When the Levy Breaks
- Whole Lotta Love