Heart brought a tour de force performance to Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre on Tuesday. At age 63, Ann Wilson shows no signs of aging in her voice, still belting with the ferocity of youth — the trademark scream in “Barracuda” is still there. Sister Nancy adds brilliant harmonies and rocks out on a variety of stringed instruments, including electric guitar, acoustic guitar (perfect on the intro to “Crazy on You”) and mandolin. The rest of the band sounded tight and focused.
Led Zeppelin was the theme of the night, something that seemed particularly appropriate on Robert Plant’s birthday; the “Golden God” turned 65 Tuesday. Jason Bonham‘s Led Zeppelin experience opened the night with a 45-minute set of Zep tunes, channeling his father on the intro to “The Ocean” and playing sequenced tracks of Bonzo’s monumental drum riff intro to “When the Levee Breaks” while requesting the audience to pay homage to his father.
Heart opened with “Barracuda,” whose galloping riff pays tribute to the mighty Zep’s “Achilles Last Stand.” For the rest of a tight 70-minute set, the band waded through most of its hits, including the wailing “Magic Man.”
Some tracks got a rearrangement, such as “Dog and Butterfly,” which took on an almost orchestral grandeur, and “These Dreams,” which had Nancy playing mandolin instead of guitar.
Jason Bonham, as well as his guitarist, Tony Catania, joined Heart for what wasn’t so much an encore as a second set, all Zeppelin songs. Ann and Nancy eased into it with “The Battle of Evermore,” Nancy playing John Paul Jones’ mandolin strumming with precision and Ann playing acoustic guitar. After that acoustic turn, it was all classic Zeppelin rock, ending with what are generally regarded as Zep’s two best songs, “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Ann’s voice was a perfect substitute for Plant’s on the songs, while the choir backing the band on “Stairway” added a great effect going into the classic guitar solo, played dexterously by Heart guitarist Craig Bartock. He took the tribute to another level by playing it on a Fender Telecaster, the same type of guitar that Gibson god Jimmy Page used on the recorded solo.
It’s a mystery how Heart can continue to sound like they did during their ’70s heyday, but long may Ann and Nancy “Rock and Roll.”
Luckily the performances made up for the terrible atmosphere at Fiddler’s Green on Tuesday. The guy behind me was talking with his friends so much that before the encore, he said, “They have to play ‘Barracuda.'” News flash: if you had listened to the music instead of talking, you would have known that they freaking opened the show with it. There seemed to be little regard for the music from many of those in the area around me.