Heart at Gexa Energy Pavilion, 8/15/13: Review

Categories: Last Night

heart-photo.jpg
Growing up in the late '70s and early '80s, bands like Heart were the bane of my existence. As a teenager, I cringed when hits like "Magic Man" or "Barracuda" were constantly coming from the radio in my dad's car. Sure, both Ann and Nancy Wilson were easy on the eyes, but this stuff was Led Zeppelin light. I was listening to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Who had time for Heart?

And then the band seemed to fade from view. After 1980's Bebe le Strange, the hits dried up, at least for a while. Then mid decade, the Wilson sisters decided to abandon rock and tackle power ballads head on. It was a fortuitous (albeit musically horrendous) choice. The hits like "What About Love" and "These Dreams" became even bigger than anything previous. Even as Ann Wilson battled weight issues (see videos from that time when they only filmed her head), the band reached an entire new audience, a seemingly endless contingent of soccer moms and stay at home dads, folks who liked music easily digested and consumed

Well, last night at Gexa Energy Pavilion, Heart gave the enthusiastic audience the best and the worst of it. Starting with the late '70s bone-crunching riffs and absurdly medieval lyrics and proceeding to the syrupy, vacuous late 80's material, Heart acted as each style could coexist with the other. And judging by the reception of the crowd, they could.

Opening with "Barracuda," Heart sounded vibrant and compelling. Sure, the song is basically a Zeppelin rip off, but Nancy Wilson was in good guitar form and Ann was hitting the high notes better than any other 63-year-old front person I know. Then came "Heartless," a decent rock song with a good hook. But once "What About Love" began, I just had to shake my head and wonder why this connected with anyone at any level. It's a simple song, a mundane cliché with a huge, sing-a-long chorus that forces folks to fling their arms in the air and sway like programmed automatons. This was miles away from Led Zeppelin, miles away from anything resembling rock and roll.

Luckily, Heart rebounded with "Magic Man" and "Kick it Out," songs from long ago and far way, songs with a soul. Even the new wavy "Even it Up" had bite, although Ann's proclamation that the song was some kind of feminist call to arms rang hallow.

The concert's low point may have well been "Dog and Butterfly," a decent acoustic ditty back in the day. But now, Heart has turned the song into another sickly sweet, over-amped, heavy-handed power ballad. I kept envisioning some bad Pixar movie about this runaway dog and his butterfly friend somehow finding their way back home while the soundtrack pounded my brain into submission with trite lyrics and bombastic overproduction.

After an OK take on Elton John's "I Need You to Turn To," Heart pummeled the crowd with "These Dreams," a truly horrible excuse for a song. Of course, the masses ate it up, recalling all those 80's memories like they had happened yesterday. Exceedingly well played, the song echoed out into the night like a bad rerun of a forgotten 80's sitcom.

Thankfully, Heart ended with "Crazy on You," a killer song with an undeniably killer riff. And then it was encore time when (opening act) Jason Bonham and his Led Zeppelin Experience backed Ann and Nancy through the expected Zeppelin chestnuts.

"Immigrant Song," "Kashmir," and of course, "Stairway to Heaven" sounded alright. Early on, Heart was probably a decent Zeppelin cover band and tonight they proved they still could hold their own.

Exiting the venue, I felt better about the 80 degree temperature than I did about the music. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. It was like eating a Twinkie and downing it with a big glass of Coke. I felt bloated with sugar and in serious need of some punk rock roughage.

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29 comments
boogie266
boogie266

I get it ...you didn't like the set list. Move on and get on with the review.

I guess its too late.

News flash..... posting while drunk is not an acceptable way to review music these days...but I guess the Dallas Observer doesn't have standards...

For those people that stumbled on this review and want more highlights from the show.

1) Battle of Evermore - is a song that Ann and Nancy take on with a mandolin, an acoustic guitar and two voices...I will tell you I cant listen to the Zeppelin version after hearing A&N's version. I left the venue with "bring it back" looping through my head.

2) Stairway to Heaven - the Acoustic intro is just mesmerizing  ...I was in a trance just watching the song unfold through nancy's fingertips....Ann's vocals were powerful and without question this is one of the standout songs of the evening.

3) Alone - The audience gave Ann a 2-3 minute standing ovation...with screams coming from all over We LOVE you ANN!

4) Mistral Wind - Nancy's acoustic intro..Ann's voice !!! If you have not experienced this song live...you gotta get a ticket to the next show!

5) Kashmir/Immigrant Song - Music loud and Ann's voice in rare form.

I will say...the Jason Bonham opener was spectacular....but  I missed Ann's rendition of Rock and Roll, Ramble On, Black Dog and Going to California.....Maybe the next show...:)

....I could go on....

..but alas, I feel bloated from reading this rock "critics" review and am in desperate need of some Houston Chronicle or Dallas New .com roughage...

rock on everyone!

sarah.basham619
sarah.basham619

You know what I didn't connect with? This ridiculous and uninspired review. This critic comes off as a snobby, elitist teenager who thinks his taste in music surpasses everyone else's and thinks his generation (like every generation) created good music.

What he should have talked about was that Ann Wilson's voice, at an astounding 60 something, is as blow-your-face off powerful and perfect as it's ever been. Ann is still doing what Robert Plant wishes he could still do. She has, easily, one of the best voices in the history of rock and roll. And Nancy was playing her heart out like she was twenty five again. They went out there and gave the crowd an absolutely amazing show. And while this critic was patting himself on the back for his own cleverness, the rest of the crowd was very appreciative of their efforts. "Dog and Butterfly" and the Elton John cover could easily be considered highlights of the show. And Ann performed "Alone" with so much emotion and passion, that the typically cliched 80's power ballad had me in tears.

And the comment about Heart being Led Zeppelin light? It's tired, dude. They've proven they can stand on their own talent, while having the distinction of being one of the very first female-fronted rock bands with any merit to achieve any success and recognition. Robert Plant was once asked what his favorite Led Zeppelin song was, and he said "Barracuda" because it was the kind of song he'd always wanted to write. Ann and Nancy performed their version to "Stairway to Heaven" at the Kennedy Center Honors in front of Robert, Jimmy, and John Paul and had them breaking down into tears. You won't find bigger fans of Heart than Led Zeppelin.

You don't go to a Heart concert (or any concert for that matter) to see if you still hate the songs that you hated back when they recorded them. You go because you love the music. And love of music isn't about egos or impressing people with your music taste. It's about connecting with something from the soul, inviting it in to provide the soundtrack of your own life, regardless of whether or not it's popular.

snoozeboy
snoozeboy

Wow Darryl you sure are cool. I also am a fan of The Clash, Mott, Pistols, Ramones, etc. etc. etc. I also saw all of those bands along with almost every other rock tour since 1974. Do you think you have seen 2,000 concerts in your day, I have. According to your theory Metallica must suck because Slayer is heavier or Television is better than Talking heads 'cause they were more underground. No one cares about your  'cred. Reviewing bands that you already don't like is stupid. Yes, I am a fan of Heart but they don't need me to defend them. You are exposed as a poseur douche. Sorry Dallas that this is what you call a "music reviewer." I'm sure you deserve better.

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee

@snoozeboy  The DMN had a better review of this show, but then again their reviewers are true professionals that don't write from the perspective of a narcissist.  

Giving this reviewer some credit he did mention that the technical performance of Heart was "extremely well played", just that he didn't like the music.   Most people who read reviews of legacy bands like Heart are looking to see if the artist still "has it" when it comes to vocal chops or guitar skill and reading this review most people would understand that Heart hasn't lost anything with age.  


mistyb81
mistyb81

This is a ridiculous review. i was front row out of the pit for the show in Houston the night before this show. Heart was AMAZING! It was my 5th time to see them, and Ann's vocals were stronger than I had ever heard them before, which was quite pleasing after seeing them so much. Being that they have soooo many songs and tour quite a bit, they have to change their setlist up each time since there obviously is never enough time to play everything and please everyone. What kind of stupid comment is it to say not to play the 80s songs, what about love, alone, etc.....well A huge majority of Heart fans love those songs, they are hits, so will always be included. They did skip Never, which is usually in the set. They have to give and take each tour....The skipped Straight On, and rarely do that. It's always different as it should be. Heart does an amazing performance of every Zeppelin song, at least they did in Houston. I mean breathtaking. Together with Bonham gives them much higher of credit than just a cover band....This show was definitely the next best thing to seeing Plant or Zeppelin (which I just saw Plant a month prior) Plant himself even was brought to tears by this performance....The girls were top notch and looked beautiful as ever. Bonham was KILLER on the drums. The singer for his band nailed Zeppelin songs like you wouldn't believe!! If this tour comes around your town, GO!!! You won't regret it... :)

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee

@mistyb81 The reviewer is entitled to his opinion, but I agree it's pretty ridiculous to go review the concert of a band who's music you don't like.  I'd never go review Celine Dion or Nickelback because I can't stand their music and it makes no sense to do so.  This reviewer probably needs to stick to reviewing The Clash.

Disbelief.....
Disbelief.....

O.K. Darryl, put down Daddy's computer and quit wasting everybody's time pretending to be a "rock critic"...   You are in CLEARLY over your head and making the Dallas Observer a laughing stock with your limited scope and commentary....

But no worries, your new fav, edgy group, "One Direction" will be back soon and allow "writers" of your qualifications to write about and revive memories of the glory days of The Clash and the Pistols...  Hasn't Sid Vicious been dead for 35 years now...?  After reading your "review", I can see why you might prefer band members that murder their girlfriends.....  After all, it's so edgy and "Hollywood Babylon" like.....

Guys like you always think it's more important to be trendy and "2013 cutting edge" (you know like your examples of the 1977 era Sex Pistols or the 1979 era Clash), than to be CORRECT...  Time to get a REAL job, because this "writer charade" you are perpetuating obviously isn't working out for you, Junior.....

BOTTOM LINE:  Inaccurate Review, Dallas Observer (& cub reporter Darryl Smyers)........

blabla
blabla

Seriously, how does a guy get a job like this? Not being at the show or even being a Heart fan, I can see that he took this job with a serious bias. How do you walk into a concert and say "I think your music is crap. Convince me otherwise"? How does that enlighten the reader? That's my review of the reviewer and my best advice to him is ..... Tell your dad, uncle or whatever neighbor got you this job that you would be better suited for delivering papers, not writing for them. 

darylbabyar
darylbabyar

"I was listening to the Sex Pistols & the Clash. Who had time for Heart?"

What does that have to do with the performance in Dallas?

jandlstotz
jandlstotz like.author.displayName 1 Like

So dude, if you don't like the music of the 70's and 80's going in...gimme a call, I'll take your free 1st row tickets ,,,and even offer to take your dad with me!!!  Just my opinion, but Ann Wilson was, and still is, the best female vocalist of all time; Nancy is a fine, if unremarkable, guitarist but surely gets the job done.  Heart's supporting  muscians are first rate. While I am admittedly NOT the biggest Led Zeppelin fan, Bonham's group did a great job in their part of the show and again in the encore. So I guess the final score is:  Great concert 15000; Crappy 70s music 1!!

darrylrs
darrylrs

@jandlstotz dude, i was out on the lawn. and i like 70's and 80's music, just Mott the Hoople, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Psychedelic Furs. and the Replacements and Husker Du. and many others, 

fantasychild
fantasychild like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Ok....so... Ann Wilson sang well and was "hittling the high notes," Nancy was in "good guitar form," and they "held their own" in performing the Zeppelin encore... Talk about damning with faint praise.   It seems this reviewer was more concerned with his personal musical preferances rather than objectively reviewing the show.  Like all those who have commented (and who went to the show), I assumed that the purpose of a concert review was to critically, but objectively, review the live performance rather than senselessly recounting whether the artist is one of your personal faves.  Last night was my EIGHTH time seeing the Wilson sisters in 30+ years and they are unequivocally one of the best and most consistent live acts around.  Period.  Ann Wilson is, without question, one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time.  You cannot watch her live without being in absolute awe of her voice.  And Nancy Wilson is an amazingly gifted guitar player, whose acoustic prowess provides the texture and soul to their sound.  In their peformance last night, they more than ably demonstrated their mastery of their respective crafts.  Even well into their fourth decade of playing hard, they make it look effortless.  I say, ROCK ON, LADIES! Looking forward to the NINTH!

Cherie Cangiano
Cherie Cangiano

From the comments I just read there wasn't much of a debate, all were positive reviews of an absolutely amazing show, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Heart and Jason Bonham's band were outstanding, Ann's voice was dead on hair raising no lip syncing here....it is rare these days to be treated to such as show...

hilldonna2007
hilldonna2007 like.author.displayName 1 Like

You're clearly not a legitimate music "critic". You're more focused on issues like how much someone weighs or how old they are rather than the music. after all, it was Nancy Wilson who once said- "It's about the effin' music!" did I mention your sexist perspective? The Wilson sisters have fought against this all of their lives. News flash! men are not the only rockers!!!!!!! I doubt you would make comments like this about the Stones or any of the many other MALE rock groups that are still going strong and have been around longer than Heart. It never ceases to amaze me how so- called music critics in what is without a doubt the most unhip city in America- Dallas-posture themselves with their nose up in the air looking down on anything that doesn't meet their very narrow definition of a good concert. My ears are still ringing and probably will be for at least another two days because of the loud enthusiastic crowd seeing Heart at Gexa and I'm enjoying every second. Too bad you have neither eyes nor ears nor a brain - all prerequisites for critiquing concerts. Update your resume and find a different line of work.

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee

I would add to iamdavo's post that Ann and Nancy Wilson got approval from Plant/Page/Jones to do the encore tribute on this tour prior to going on the road.   They would not have done it without the blessings of the three remaining Zeps.  And anyone who has followed Plant knows he is not one to give his blessing to things like this, especially if he is afraid it will taint the Zeppelin legacy.

Hookers
Hookers

@hoopsjunkee Then Plant should stop the Jason Bonham tribute show cause it just aint cutting it. He might be able to drum a little. But those other guys are horrible.

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Hookers @hoopsjunkee  Totally disagree.  The vocalist and lead guitarist in Jason's band are first class.  They aren't trying to be Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, so if you want a carbon copy imitation you're going to be disappointed.   I have yet to see a bad review of their lead singer from any legitimate newspaper or magazine.  If you think either that vocalist or guitarist are "horrible" then I would question both your knowledge of Zeppelin's music and your knowledge of musicianship in general.

iamdavo
iamdavo like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Its too bad the reviewer could not see the show without looking through the lens of old biases. I actually felt,reading the review, that I was at a different concert from Darryl. I am not a heart fanboy, but my wife has been for years and so we grabbed some great seats. I, with thousands of others stood (the audience was on their feet for the vast majority of the show) in awe of the voice of Ann Wilson. She is truly one of the best live vocalists that has ever lived. As they launched into some of their great classic rock songs, you could see people all around you shaking their heads in amazement at how this band could sound this good so many years after they formed. 

The Zeppelin wannabe comments of the reviewer are silly. Listen, if you dont like the band thats fine, but dont say stupid things. Magic Man, Mistral Winds, Kick it out AND  Barracuda (sorry Darryl, I cant see Robert plant singing Barracuda)...they all stand on their own as GREAT rock songs. Some power ballads, sure thats what bands wrote in the 80's. The Zeppelin set with Jason Bonham and his band was lights out, not "alright" as the reviewer says. The fact is this Heart tribute to Led Zeppelin is the closest you will get to *feeling* those songs again anywhere.  If you want to see Robert Plants stamp of approval, search youtube for "Heart stairway to heaven kennedy center" and watch him shed a tear watching Ann Heart perform one of their greatest songs.

So, if you want to know the real story of what happened last night without the aged bias of this reviewer...Heart was amazing and blew away everyone I could see around me (which may have included the other commenters below. We all saw a different show and it rocked!

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I was at the Houston show the night before this performance in Dallas.  I couldn't believe how good they sounded.

As for the power ballads, I agree with the previous poster.  Personally I would have rather heard "If Looks Could Kill", the title cut from "Bad Animals", or "Shell Shock" represent the 80s/90s era of the band since they are hard rockers, but the casual fan probably would rather hear "Alone".   Heart's albums from that period definitely had some good hard rock (albeit hair metal as was the style at the time), but the Promoters would probably rather have Heart sing the #1 songs.  

Ann Wilson's voice is simply a force of nature.  She can go from quiet folk to metal at the drop of a hat and sound equally good on both.  The newer bands of today seem to be missing the main ingredient of long term success -- talent.    Fat/thin/metal/pop, it doesn't matter with Ann Wilson, she is the real deal.  There won't ever be another like her.

KWilk
KWilk like.author.displayName 1 Like

I was at this show and thought it was great.  Like you, I'm not fond of the power ballads.  But what alot of people don't know is that Heart's 80s albums had some good hard rock on them. Power ballads were a fact of life in the 80s, just ask Aerosmith and Van Halen. 

In the 80s the record companies didn't want harder music from Heart;  they just wanted power ballads and Nancy's tits so the only songs that got released to radio were the ballads.  

The most compelling thing about last nights show for me is just how good Ann Wilson still sounds after all these years.  I'm not a vocalist, but I don't know how anyone, especially at that age, can wail like she does night after night and still not miss a note.  Her voice alone was worth the price of admission, and the harder Heart material and Zeppelin material was icing on the cake.

darrylrs
darrylrs

@KWilk van hagar did power ballads, not van halen. 

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee

@darrylrs @KWilk  No, that was 80s Van Halen.  Who the lead singer was is irrelevant.  Eddie Van Halen had writing credits on pretty much all of that music.

Mervis
Mervis

Well, he was sitting in his dad's back seat you know.

Mervis
Mervis

Jump? Maybe not a power ballad but definitely a power pop song.

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee

@darrylrs @hoopsjunkee  

No, you're actually not.  Van Halen in the 1980s was real Van Halen regardless of who the lead singer was.  And your point is invalid as well since both Van Halen and David Lee Roth were releasing power ballads in the 80s.  For a music reviewer you don't seem to know all that much about rock music history.  You might want to brush up on that so you won't be stuck writing for a free newspaper forever. 

darrylrs
darrylrs

@hoopsjunkee Everyone knows Roth's solo material was a joke. Again, I am right when I say real Van Halen didn't do power ballads.

hoopsjunkee
hoopsjunkee

@darrylrs @hoopsjunkee @KWilk  Clearly you never listened to David Lee Roth's 1986 album Eat 'Em and Smile which was a power ballad fest.   You should have just not replied because now I know you aren't credible. 

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