This Heart Still Beats

The classic rock band Heart gave a superb performance Tuesday night at the PAC, spanning its own catalog and treating the sold-out crowd to some surprises.


I had an extra ticket for Tuesday night’s Heart show at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center and figured it wouldn’t be a problem to get rid of it. As it turns out, I was wrong.


While I did finally find someone interested in going to the show, the first few people I asked all came back with an answer that surprised me: “Nah, not really my kind of music.”


Really? I mean, to each their own, but while every music act has its fans and detractors, I’d never really heard much vitriol toward Heart.


With the core of the act comprising Ann and Nancy Wilson, Heart has proven to be a universally loved act since their debut nearly four decades ago. Back in the ’70s, when rock and roll was dominated by men, Ann and Nancy proved that they had the chops necessary to hang with the guys. Radio hits such as “Barracuda,” “Crazy On You,” and “Straight On” shot the band, which initially found fame in Canada, to stardom in the U.S. and beyond. After a dip in popularity in the early ’80s, the band reinvented itself, adopting a pseudo hair-metal sound that, along with some flashy videos on MTV, gained the band a new legion of fans.


Sure, Heart has had its share of cringe-worthy musical moments. Anyone remember the radio hit “All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You?” I’d love to forget that particular song. Still, with the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 and more than 35 million albums sold worldwide, Heart has definitely cemented its place in music history.


As a teenager, I wore out a couple of copies of Heart and Dreamboat Annie on cassette. But up until this past Tuesday night, I’d never had a chance to see the band live. I’ve also never had a chance to see the Rolling Stones. I could have seen Mick and Keef back in the ’80s and ’90s, but I simply never got around to it. The last couple of times the Stones have toured, it’s been a bit embarrassing to see video footage of Mick Jagger strutting like a rooster as he approached 70 years of age. Would seeing the Wilson sisters, both in their 60s now, feel similar?


Happily, I can report that both Ann and Nancy still have the mojo that first gained them notice forty-plus years ago. The sold-out audience at the PAC just about lost their minds when the band kicked right into “Barracuda,” wasting no time getting the blood pumping. From there it was a night of hits and well-chosen covers. “Heartless” killed, and “What About Love,” a tune from Heart’s MTV glory days, got a huge response. The hits kept coming with “Kick It Out,” “Magic Man,” and “Straight On.” A cover of Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It” demonstrated Heart’s superb participation on a tribute album for the Beatle that was released earlier this year.


After another stop in the ’80s with “These Dreams” allowed Nancy a turn at lead vocals, and Ann returned to the stage to do Aretha Franklin justice with a cover of “Ain’t No Way.” More popular Heart songs like “Alone” and “Crazy On You” closed out the main set, but the best was yet to come.


Ann and Nancy have always been fans of Led Zeppelin, and when the legendary Brits received the Kennedy Center Honors a few years back, it was Ann and Nancy who brought Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant to tears of joy with their version of “Stairway to Heaven." Heart performed the song with Jason Bonham (the son of the late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) on drums. So when Heart returned to the PAC stage for its encore on Tuesday night and dug into Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” I figured the band was having a little fun with the crowd, given that the song’s lyrics, “Come from the land of the ice and snow,” accurately reflected the weather outside that had cancelled school in the Lowcountry that day. The joke was on me though, because that Zeppelin tune was the first in a triple shot of songs from Plant and company. “Immigrant Song” was followed by the rippling, psychedelic “No Quarter,” which in turn segued into the rollicking “Misty Mountain Hop,” which found Ann Wilson expertly mimicking Plant’s “I really don’t know-oh-oh” lyrics.


As I posted to Facebook a few times during the show (yeah, I’m one of those people), a couple of my friends who had turned down or missed the opportunity to snag that extra ticket openly lamented their regrets. For those of us there that night though, it was pretty sweet seeing a legendary rock act demonstrate they can still bring it live.