Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heart Live @ DTE: WTF Dreamboat Annie meets the Red Velvet Car

I got into Heart as soon as they burst into the national scene in 1975 when they hit it outta the park with Magic Man and Crazy on You. The early success in the seventies can be attributed to a combination of uncommon factors that would forever change an otherwise testosterone-fueled rock band. In an era dominated by the cock-rock of the Motley Crue, Warrant, Ratt, Poison and dozens of other like minded phallic warriors (GIVE ME SPINAL TAP), Heart was fronted by two beautiful women – Ann and Nancy Wilson - who sang, wrote songs and played instruments and rocked as hard as Tommy Lee! The combination of Ann’s incredible voice and the powerful guitar work of Steve Fisher proved irresistible. With Fisher dating Nancy and his brother Mike partnering with Ann, Heart joined Fleetwood Mac in the romantic triangle, loves gone bad sweepstakes. Fisher left the band in 1979 when he and Nancy ended their relationship. His intricate and powerful guitar work was sorely missed and it left a big gap in Heart’s overall sound. The band would never be the same. They still seemed to rock but I would lose patience when they’d pull out a bombastic, over-the-top ballad. The sound was somehow diminished and homogenized like many of the faceless hair bands of the eighties. All those creamy big haired, big hook ballads seemed to be made out by the same large industrial churns. It just didn’t feel the same as the good old fashioned wood barrel rock & roll that I favored. But back in ’76, the monkey-love sensuality of Crazy on You could evoke in me an itchin’ loin-stirring warmth but Magic Man only reinforced my own inadequacies. Women NEVER saw me like Ann Wilson saw this dude. And as horny as he obviously was, he was sooo cool to suggest “you don’t have to love and let’s get high awhile.” Holy crap. That cat was on to something. Hmm, I’ll get stoned and groovy and I’ll pretend I’m cool and she will relax and then through my seeming indifference to getting it on, she’ll make the first move. And then I’ll be nice and gentle with a slow easy hand and then, and then, AND THEN… AAARRGGHHHHH. I’ll pound it like a 16 oz Porterhouse!!!! OH, LORD HAVE MERCY. I AM A MAN…kind of, more like a creepy little magic man.

Better defect to Canada and dodge mama’s bullets, brother. Just wait till Carter’s amnesty and you’ll get back in the driver’s seat, at least until the band breaks up –it’s the story of early Heart and it is a true love story back when the band struggled for an identity and came up with a unique sound that blended hard rock and folk music. Don’t get me wrong I like ballads juts as much as any emasculated sissy man who is kept and hog tied by a hard headed woman who could throw a hard sucker punch as well as a prime piece of butt. I’d rather have the punch ‘cos I love the way it hurts. Bullshit. Rihanna is just Eminem’s mouthpiece -NOBODY loves the way it hurts unless they grew up like Eminem. Ok - that could be millions of people. It’s a cruel world and the Wilson sisters are well aware of that…especially Ann. The reaction to Ann’s weight gain in the eighties was nothing short of a brutal invalidating sexism that continues to rage in our mainstream media whether on sitcoms, reality shows, commercials, boardrooms or bedrooms. Never mind that Ann Wilson is one of our greatest pop singers - ever. She’s a rock & roll Sinatra who can sing softly with nuance and a raised eyebrow or she can blow you away like Kate Smith god-blessing America. The gathering throngs at DTE seemed to understand this undeniable truth. They stood up from the very first note played and barely took a seat during the entire 90 minute show. Heart opened with the hard rockin’ Cook with Fire and came right back with five straight bonafide million selling hits Heartless, What about Love, Straight On, These Dreams and the exquisite Dog and Butterfly. The crowd was moonin’ and junin’ and hugging on each other like they were falling in love all over again. Ann Wilson played the crowd like ringing a bell and had them salivating for more. She has her own particular voodoo, a musical sorcery both sensuous and hypnotic. And just when she has lulled you into a safe comfortable place, Ann will hit a perfect high note with operatic precision that will shake you like a volcano waking from a deep sleep. Oh yeah, it feels good like a full body massage that sends shivers through your loins without ever touching an erogenous zone…ok , I know – just about any part of the body can have a delightful sensitivity – G-spot or not.

The thing that made this concert even more of an event is that Heart released a brand-spanking-new CD just days before the show and it is a superb disc from start to finish. From the title track Red Velvet Car (about a friend who comes to your aide in times of trouble) to Hey You (with a great Hey Jude-like chorus) and the rocker with a bold message WTF. These songs are every bit as good as anything in their illustrious 35 year catalog of music. Incredible. Ann’s voice has aged like a fine Bordeaux wine and she has a late period Sinatra rasp similar to his brash rock & roll vocal on That’s Life in 1966. I am in awe of this band of sisters. They are survivors who were still writing, producing, and releasing great songs long after their hit-making years and without much chance to turn a profit. They acknowledge this fact in recent interviews but they also state that they create for the act of creation. Because that was what they do and that is what helps nourish their souls - their aliveness.

Heart finished the show with a three pronged attack that left me bloodied and beaten and wanting for more. It started with those seventies gems bring us back to the time when we actually listened to new music and it MATTERED. Magic Man began the sensual assault followed by a nuclear powered Crazy On You and closed with the angry for a reason song Barracuda. It was righteous. And in the roar of adulation I saw Ann Wilson standing still, she appeared to be soaking it all in; she stole a sideways look to her sister Nancy, a brief smile flickered between them. A genuine moment – that is what it’s all about…right?

Bo White

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