For the die-hard Beatles fan, hearing one of their songs in public (no matter how popular or unpopular) is always a good sign. I read Ann and Nancy Wilson’s memoir, Kicking and Dreaming, earlier this year and I knew these women have an undying love for the four lads from Liverpool. So, when the blare of George Harrison’s sitars in “Within You, Without You” hummed over the bustling crowd at the Molson Canadian Ampitheatre on July 23rd, I knew something was about to happen. They love the Beatles, therefore this is somehow their homage to rock ‘n’ roll greatness or a courageous build-up to stepping out in front of an audience and giving their all. The Wilson sisters have a formulaic superstition (because they used the same song prior to their entrance when I saw them in March for my birthday), but I suppose it works to their favour.
The moment when a band member walks on the stage is a moment of awe. The silliest thoughts cross your mind: “I could just run up and say ‘hello’, if there weren’t 20 big, burly security guards in the way” or “Wow, we’re breathing the same oxygen!” I’ve felt the overwhelming feeling of seeing some of the greatest performers in history walk on-stage: Elton John, Liza Minnelli, and Paul McCartney (to name a few). Each experience is unique, however, I think the Wilson sisters top them all — yes, even Paul. You see, if you’re interested in Heart, you’re usually caring about two things in tandem: Ann and Nancy. As much as I know the rest of the band is valuable and create the entire “Heart Experience”, without the two of them it’s just not Heart. There are two bursts of excitement, two moments in which you have matching realizations that these people, these women, were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. They’re not just performers, they’re living legends.
Even though we all cheat in the 21st century and look at previous setlists in said performer’s current tour on setlist.fm, I still think there is an element of surprise. You never know what type of concert banter they have cooked up and they throw in the occasional surprise song for different venues. “Barracuda”, “Magic Man”, and “Crazy On You” are an absolute Heart concert must. All of those bubbly girls in the audience pulled their fists close to their chests as they belted “What About Love” alongside Ann, and Ann always makes us sound so great. But, she down the house with “Alone”; in the three times I have seen Heart, I always wonder how she has an ounce of vocal ability and energy still lingering inside of her after “Alone.” Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin experience joined Heart for a thirty minute encore of Led Zeppelin songs with Ann Wilson at the helm. Needless to say, they did Led Zeppelin justice.
The greatest treats for me were “Dog and Butterfly”, “Mistral Wind”, and a little Elton John Folk song called “I Need You to Turn To” sung and played by Nancy Wilson on her acoustic guitar. She dedicated the song to the group members of Rush because they had sent a beautiful array of flowers to apologize for their absence in the audience on that particular night. I know, what are the odds? While I love Ann’s vocal ability, my heart still explodes when Nancy sings — so, this was a crowning moment! “Mistral Wind” is married to “Alone” in terms of vocal abilities. I have many thoughts behind this musical arrangement, but needless to say, Ann was in perfect voice to perform it and I’m so happy they did — my roommate had been dying to hear it live. “Dog and Butterfly” touched me, as it usually does. Ann said before they performed that it has become more difficult for them to sing in concert because she can barely do it without choking up. If you think of the lyrics of the song, it’s no wonder. Dog and Butterfly is a song relevant to everyone in every stage of their life — I feel it holds true to the Wilson sisters (and Sue Ennis) who wrote the song in their twenties and continue to play it in their late fifties and early sixties.
I have no clue why I love Heart so much. I think their music touches me in a way not many musicians have the ability to do so. Their genetic bond as sisters, their musical talent (both on guitar and vocally), and the lyrics are just testaments to me that sometimes music speaks to us on a level much deeper than “I’m going to a concert, I’m paying for this ticket, I went to the concert, and now it’s over.” They have a relatable and universal message that lasts. Frankly, and as ridiculous as this may sound, I thank God for Ann and Nancy for making life a little more bearable and a lot more fun.