Review: Heart – Concert Hall, Glasgow

Understatement of the year would be to say that these recent UK dates from Heart have been a long time coming. 12 years to be precise. 12 years of scrolling through tour announcements eagerly checking for any dates that didn’t require a transatlantic flight. 12 years of reading gig reviews as the band continuously went out on the road in North America. 12 years of hoping… then, just when you think that all hope is lost, those three little words that you’ve been longing to read come staring back at you through the old interweb…“Heart UK tour”. Suddenly, the world seems a nicer place. Judging by the way that these dates sold so quickly, a great deal of people were thinking the same thing. 12 years, too long. Providing the starter, prior to the main course this evening, were much-loved British rockers FM, which turned out to be a masterstroke, as the band are old hands at working a crowd. With only 35 minutes to make their mark, the onstage chat was pretty much limited to simple ‘thank you’s, but Steve Overland is confident enough to indulge in some audience participation, and has the crowd clapping and singing along. They have a decent amount of core fans in the crowd who are making themselves heard, and the band look like they are enjoying what could be described as an Indian Summer. Last year’s ‘Heroes And Villains’ album was very well received and ‘Life Is A Highway’ slots in nicely alongside older tracks like ‘That Girl’, ‘I Belong To The Night’, and ‘Burning My Heart Down’. FM do a great job of warming the crowd up at such an early hour, and they take their bows and exit to a standing ovation. Oh Heart, how I have missed thee! As the band take to the stage, and the intro to ‘Wild Child’ begins,suddenly the last few decades roll back and we’re in 1990 and the ‘Brigade’ album is blaring out of my speakers for the first time.The driving low key beginning of the song leads into a trademark powerhouse vocal performance from Ann Wilson, and she nails every note with ease. She still possesses the most sensual and powerful voice in rock, and shows no sign of giving that crown up any time soon. Sister Nancy is on the left throwing the guitar hero moves that have been enthralling audiences for decades. Jumping, twirling, and kicking out, she is, as she always was, a joy to watch. Ably assisted by the four other band members, the Wilson sisters quickly set out to make up for lost time. 1990 gives way to 1976 as the band steamroller into ‘Magic Man’ from their debut album ‘Dreamboat Annie’ (which has just been lovingly reissued on vinyl as a 40th anniversary edition). An early airing for a genuine classic Heart track, that still manages to get the crowd rocking out 40 years on, and the interplay between Nancy and Craig Bartock is spellbinding to watch. Heart’s career could be split into three categories: pre ­big hair, big hair, then post­ big hair. ‘What About Love’ is the song that re­launched Heart’s career in the mid 80’s, and spawned the ‘big hair’ phase. Tonight, it’s slowed down and stripped back, and without any 80’s sheen, it still manages to get the arm hairs standing up, as Ann delivers another passionate vocal performance.
Not just blessed with a Heart tour, we are also blessed to have an imminent new album. ’Beautiful Broken’ is a mixture of some new tracks and a re­imagining of some deeper cuts from a particular period in the band’s history. The title track has already been released to the world in the form of a lyric video, and the fact that James Hetfield lends his recognisable vocal talents to the track reinforces the fact of how revered Heart are amongst the musical fraternity. The album is well represented tonight, with the title track being the first to be aired. Originally released as a bonus song from 2012’s ‘Fanatic’ album, it’s a short, sharp uptempo rocker that does indeed kick ass. ’Sweet Darling’ originally featured on the ‘Bebe Le Strange’ album, and this new version sounds incredible. Also aired were two brand new tracks, the gorgeous ballad ‘Two’ which features Nancy on lead vocals, and the Zeppelin­esque ‘I Jump’, which has a massive drum sound from Ben Smith that fills the auditorium. Two very different sides to Heart that prove they can still cut it with new material. People are here to hear the classics though, and it seems that the omission of ‘Alone’ from the Manchester show earlier in the week was a major talking point. Back in the set tonight, it is performed stripped back with both sisters accompanied by Chris Joyner on the keyboards. The crowd does indeed go wild, as the reaction is deafening. No idea why it was dropped from Manchester, but Jesus, it was breathtaking. ’Bebe Le Strange’ is aired with a brief introduction from Ann, where she explained back in the day, they used to get fan mail from females trying to make it in rock, and how inspired by Heart they were, so the song was written about them. Along with ‘Kick It Out’ and ’Straight On’, this was another magical trip back to an earlier era. Of course, no Heart gig would be complete without the heavy artillery of both ‘Crazy On You’ and ‘Barracuda’. Both are given a rapturous welcome. Nancy, Bartock, and bassist Dan Rothchild are having a blast on stage, flicking picks at each other as they are trying to play. Most end up in crowd, serving as a nice souvenir for some lucky fans. Nancy, especially, garners great applause for her acoustic intro on ‘Crazy On You’, which she doodles with for a few moments before the instantly recognisable opening chords. After 75 minutes, the band take a brief moment of applause, then leave to the wings. When they return, they pay homage to their idols, Led Zeppelin, by performing three classics. Some have uttered grumbles about this, but considering how much the Wilson sisters love Zeppelin (and they were in the UK), then I’m of the opinion that the encore of ‘Immigrant Song’, ’No Quarter’, and ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ is something to embrace and enjoy. After all,they did bring Robert Plant to tears with their jaw-dropping version of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ in front of the Obamas. They have been covering Zeppelin since the early days, and Ann does all three songs incredible justice. Hammer of the gods? Hell, yeah!
Heart have such a strong back catalogue that they will never please everyone. I even heard someone moaning that “They never played ‘All I Wanna Do”, before someone butted in with the priceless retort of, “Yeah, well there’s a reason for that… they hate it!”. I would have loved ‘Love Alive’, or ‘Dreamboat Annie’, but when they pulled the Lovemongers (Ann and Nancy’s side project) track ‘Sand’ out of the hat, I was in heaven, and any set list grumbles evaporated into thin air. This must have been an expensive trip across the Atlantic for just four shows. Hopefully, it was a case of testing the water for a possible return to both the UK and Europe at a later date. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting any future announcements, but if this was the last time that Heart were to grace these shores, I am thankful they blew me away. Review: Dave Stott
Images: Ritchie Birnie

Full Heart/FM Flickr album HERE

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