Tuesday evening at Wolf Trap was not about female singer diva glitz or the vestiges of 80’s glamour rock. What it weir scintillating harmonies and punchy guitar riffs, these two hard-swinging, kick-butt musicians and songwriters broke down the gender barriers as the first female rockers to front their own band, a swell as write and perform their own music. The Wilson Sisters, Ann and Nancy, who with Heart were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. combined rock and heavy metal with folk music to produce some of the most iconic music of the last several decades,proving that women can—and still do rock–with the best of ‘em!
On an uncharacteristically cool July night, I felt like I was transported back to high school days where fond memories of Heart’s first critically acclaimed album, Dreamboat Annie (way back in 1976 for you youngsters), debuted, and subsequently opened the performance with the cool and classic hit “Magic Man.” Backed by Ben Smith, Craig Bartock, Debbie Shair and Dan Rothchild, it was a totally mesmerizing experience as Nancy’s fever driffs and Ann’s unforgettable vocal range dipped right back in with the hard-charging “Heartless.” “What About Love?” led to the title track “Dreamboat Annie,” slipping in as smooth as honey. Nancy’s brilliant acoustic dreamily lulled us in, and Ann’s melodic voice and soothing flute wound it down. But as quick as lightning, the Wilson sisters charged back in, with Ann going full throttle to “Even it Up,” “Straight On” and “Little Queen.”
Nancy departed their catalog to sing Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It,” a bluesy tune that showed the depth and range of her voice and acoustic prowess. A lesser known, but equally moving “Heaven” featured Nancy playing her guitar with a violin bow as Ann accompanied with an auto-harp.
As they rolled through the night, Ann told the audience at one point, “We can’t get away from love.” Indeed, the song “All Alone” brought Ann’s vocals to the rafters, still demonstrating that the lyrics are as undeniably heart-wrenching and poignant as the first time I heard them.
The iconic track, “Crazy on You,” had everyone in the audience on their feet as Nancy let go with her famous trademark kick and equally insane acoustic lead into “Crazy on You.” As Ann wailed, “There’s nothing left to do tonight but go crazy on you,” the Wilson sisters brought an energy and power that never relented—not even for a second.
The evening’s final song, “Barracuda,” brought the lights on as Ann sinewed her voice into the title word, bringing fists pumping as the energy reverberated off the walls and into the starry skies above.
Heart capped the night with an encore tribute to their early influence, Led Zeppelin, with “Immigrant Song,” “What is and What Should Never Be,” and “Misty Mountain Hop.”
Indeed, the Wilson sisters came to Wolf Trap to give the audience a chance to relive great memories of their music. For the generation who grew up listening to Heart, and to generations who may be new to this venerable breed of rock-and-roll women, we heard the best—and Ann and Nancy shared their hearts and souls-with all of us.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Heart played Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center — 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For tickets to future events, contact the Filene Center Box Office at (703) 255-1868, or purchase them online.