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Heart thunders into the Fox Theatre

Nancy and Ann Wilson at a show in New York last month. Photo: Getty Images

Nancy and Ann Wilson at a show in New York last month. Photo: Getty Images

Heart has never been about flash or gaudy presentations, whether musically or on stage.

Yeah, there were those teased-to-Tennessee hairstyles in the ‘80s, but even when Heart’s songs adopted a pop sheen to adapt to the MTV era, the music never lost its melodic structure.

Example A: Their live rendition of “Alone,” stripped to an acoustic guitar and light keyboard, was turned into a prayer of yearning with Ann Wilson’s dynamic and emotional vocals at the forefront. Hearing her hit those notes brought a tear to your eye – or at least it should have.

Even “These Dreams,” which did retain its shimmering keyboard backbone in live form, flourished with a slightly rustic tilt provided by Nancy Wilson’s electric mandolin. And Nancy’s voice, which carries the bewitching ballad, sounded sweet and clear, the honey to Ann’s whiskey.

Heart was unveiling these snippets of their multi-decade catalog Wednesday night at the Fox Theatre in a show that could have run a little longer (it wrapped after about 80 minutes) and could have boasted a few more filled seats (the Fox was about 2/3 full).

But those who were there, though, quickly realized that the sisters Wilson and the rest of Heart – Debbie Shair on keyboards, Ben Smith on drums, Craig Bartock on guitar and Dan Rothchild on bass – planned to rock the faces off the crowd.

It’s been a busy year for the band, with a robust new album, “Fanatic,” their 14th studio work, a summer box set (“Strange Euphoria”) and the fall release of the sisters’ autobiography, “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll.” And let’s not forget that criminally late Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination.

But both Ann and Nancy looked refreshed and lovely, dressed in various layers of black lace and fringe and prowling and bopping around the stage, respectively.

They targeted a handful of new songs for this tour, which stretches into next year, opening with the new album’s title track – Ann’s purposeful vocals a potent blend with Nancy’s stinging guitar – and later thundered through the Zeppelin-esque “59 Crunch.”

The new material was well-received, as it should be considering how good it is, but of course the ethereal opening of “What About Love” and syncopated smackdown that is “Even it Up” sent the worshipful crowd into spasms of screams.

What a pleasure to hear – and watch – Nancy’s nimble acoustic guitar work on the extended intro to “Dreamboat Annie” and hear the sisters’ heavenly harmonizing on “Dog and Butterfly,” now featuring a pretty almost classical, keyboard as its backdrop until the guitars kicked in.

Nancy, 58, high-kicked her way through “Crazy on You” and faced off with Bartock for an extended solo in “Barracuda,” the frenzied lights instigating the adrenaline that remained through the first encore song, “Magic Man,” its chunky groove offset by the sisters’ eerie harmonies.

Ann then closed the show with another memorable attack of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Few female vocalists can come close to emulating Robert Plant in his heyday, but at 62, Ann remains a powerhouse with her pitch-perfect howls, yelps and gut-twisting bellows.

Tyler Bryant at a Grammy event in 2009. Photo: Getty Images

Tyler Bryant at a Grammy event in 2009. Photo: Getty Images

Who needs flash when you have this kind of talent on stage?

Opening the show was Texas guitar whiz Tyler Bryant and his band, the Shakedown. A rangy kid with a ton of raw energy, Bryant impressed both with his onstage presence – respectful of his opening slot yet ready to throwdown in a sweaty mess – and his crazy guitar chops.

He’s a bit like Jonny Lang in his early days – a prodigy ready to take things to the next level.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

26 comments Add your comment

FenderMan

November 8th, 2012
6:11 am

Sorry I missed it.

dick whiskey

November 8th, 2012
7:56 am

looks like ann wilson is still fat as a hog

peaches5

November 8th, 2012
8:10 am

So dick whiskey, how much do you weigh and do you have that kind of musical talent? Keep your classless comments to your self.

Kam Phong as Chin Ho

November 8th, 2012
8:16 am

And dick whiskey probably can’t pick his nose, much less a guitar!

ultra freeck

November 8th, 2012
8:49 am

THIS SHOW WAS FANTASTIC,AWESOME,MAGICAL,AND SOULFUL THESE LADIES GOT SWAG,TALENT,AND CLASS DON’T HATE! HAVE A HEARTTT LOVE THOSE SISTERS ANN&NANCY WILSON. THANKS FOR THE GREAT REVIEW MELISSA

Da Mick

November 8th, 2012
8:54 am

Jeez yea, Heart really rocked us hard at the Fox last night. I agree, it did feel a bit short, but still left my wife and I feeling great. I haven’t felt that deeply satisfied from a show in I don’t know when. The Wilsons were both wonderful, and the band was fantastic – each of the players was just so strong. On that note, I have to say that I was very impressed with Nancy Wilson’s guitar playing in general, and I think Nancy is under-rated as a guitar player electricly as well as acoustically. As far as the majestic voice that is Ann Wilson, I was literally thrilled at points during the show to hear what great shape her voice is in. These gals may be getting older, like all of us, but they can definitely still rock you to your soul. I agree with you Melissa, Ann’s vocals on “Alone” grabbed hold of a deep chord inside of me. It kind of took your breath away.

As far as Dick Whiskey is concerned, it saddens me deeply that, if you read blogs here and eleswhere, there seem to be far too many people out there like him. I don’t know what ever happened to these people, or if it’s a matter that they just never grew up beyond an adolescent mentality of ignorant bigotry, but the hate-filled and poisonous mind leaks that come out of them embarrass me, and bring shame to us as Georgians, and as Americans.

crackbaby

November 8th, 2012
9:04 am

Heart disappointed last night. 80 minutes was, well, Van Morrison-esque and I don’t mean that in a good way. At least they don’t make you wait 2 hours to hit the stage.

The band was solid, as always, and the sisters appeared to be having fun but they really didn’t start rocking until the last song of the regular set. The two encore songs were great but they needed to play two or three more songs with electric guitars. Bartock did a great job on lead axe.

Still love ‘em but this show was fair at best. Ann may have been having a little trouble with her voice this week – she may have needed to cut the show short.

Con

November 8th, 2012
9:05 am

A good week. Saw Rush last week which was mind blowing, and the much more stripped down show of Heart last night. Heart rocked with nothing more then a small light rig, great sounding P.A and only the players and instruments on stage. The audio mix was perfect, Ann’s vocals were insane, damn that woman can sing like no other. Nancy is a great guitar player and Craig Bartock on lead guitar was a treat, dude is goooood. Glad to finally see Heart live as was my wife. Short set, but I guess you have to do what you have to do, play your hits and touch on some new stuff. The new tunes were nice though, overall a great show.

The Rover

November 8th, 2012
9:23 am

God I love these ladies !

Civil Unrest

November 8th, 2012
9:49 am

Melissa,

What the heck happened, REALLY happened, with The Civil Wars duo?

girl

November 8th, 2012
10:09 am

That was just a regular ol’ mandolin, not an electronic one. Perhaps you meant electric? Or amplified?

Anyway, I loved the show. Ann is the master; Nancy, the inspiration. Too bad the mix was so lousy. The guitars sounded like mud and the synth was way too loud. But it was great to see them rock on such a sparse stage. Just them and the talent, no froo-froo stuff.

Melissa Ruggieri

November 8th, 2012
10:19 am

To Girl – Oy, yes, meant “electric.” That’s what happens with bleary-eyed writing at 1 a.m. Thanks, I’ve changed. Glad to see so many of you also enjoyed the show!

Cheers,
Melissa

Maria

November 8th, 2012
10:35 am

Dick whiskey-the name fits.

C from Marietta

November 8th, 2012
10:58 am

80 miunutes ? That’s all? Rush rocked Verizon for 3 hours!

kerry

November 8th, 2012
11:49 am

Seriously you have to say something about someones weight. You really should either grow up or seek counseling

Billy

November 8th, 2012
2:01 pm

They were one of the best bands of the 70s-80s. Rock is dead now, but back then the radio was filled with hit music. They have to rate up there with the Doobie Bros and Steely Dan for quality. With few exceptions, Rock music has been trash since grunge came out in ‘92. Kids, listen to groups like Heart to see how great music can be…

SAL

November 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

I was at the concert (fourth row from the stage). I must say Heart was awesome. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them in concert (first time indoors). The acoustics were good and both sisters (especially Ann) were dead on in hitting their notes. The show was a little short, but I would gladly do it all over again!

ME

November 8th, 2012
4:27 pm

WOW! I had a blast last night. I took my mother for her birthday * She has always wanted to see them and I was sooo excited to take her. I grew up listening to Heart! What an AWESOME SHOW~I am disappointed it was short–I had to run to the bathroom during the LedZ BlackDog and before I was able to get back, my mother and BFF were coming into the bathroom telling me it was over! I was like NOOOoooo* LOL It was all good though. I would do it again. If I get a chance I would see them again. They ROCKED IT! And I rocked it too–my neck was hurting in the morning. I loved Barracuda and Alone I think the best –and Magic Man/ Crazy on You–The band sounded awesome!

Mike

November 8th, 2012
4:48 pm

Rock is not dead. It’s alive and well, JUST NOT ON ATLANTA RADIO. But you can find it easily. To me, this has been one of the best years in rock music in the last 10 or 15 years. So much great music, so little time!!!

Wes

November 8th, 2012
8:23 pm

The show did feel short last night, but that was only probably because the ladies didn’t talk much and just played right through all their songs! The show left my soul wanting more, but very comforted. I love Ann Wilsons voice and have since I was a child. I was so blessed to be able to attend! It was deffinately one for the books….they always rock.

Chris

November 9th, 2012
12:16 am

Ann has a strained vocal chord so if the show was a little shorter than expected……she’s human!! Saw them a few nights ago in FL. Love them….they are amazing….

Kim G

November 9th, 2012
12:35 am

We loved the show!!! Ann can still belt it! In my opinion, there is not a woman, living or dead, that holds a candle to her vocal abilities!!! She is a rare diamond in a field of bubble gum artist today!!! Just a handful today have true, raw talent like hers (Pink, Kelly Clarkson, and Adele in some respects…)….I was thrilled to spend another fantastic evening with these wonderful sisters! They can still “kick it up!”…..

MARTIN BRUCE

November 9th, 2012
5:06 am

WHAT AN ASS-HOLE SAID ABOUT ANN WILSON !!!!!!!! U SHOULD HIDE UR HEAD IN SHAME 4 THAT HORRIBLE REMARK !!!!! ANN HAS LOST A LOT OF WEIGHT AND IS STILL LOSING TRYING AS HARD AS 1 COULD ! HER WEIGHT HAS NOTHING 2 DO WITH HER STILL BEAUTIFUL FACE , AND HER VOICE , WELL THAT SPEAKS 4 IT SELF ! ANN’S 1 INCREDIBLE VOCALIST AND CAN STILL HANG WITH THE BEST OF EM OUT THERE , BECAUSE SHE IS THE BEST !!!!!! I KNOW OF NO FEMALE WITH A RANGE THAT ANN HAS , SHE’S SIMPLY INCREDIBLE !!!! AND NANCY ON GUITAR AND VOCALS JUST BLOW ANY 1 AWAY WHO IS LUCKY ENOUGH 2 C THEM BOTH IN CONCERT ! HEART , U ROCK MY WORLD !!!!!!!!

MARTIN BRUCE

November 9th, 2012
5:07 am

AND I’M TALKING STRAIGHT 2 U WHISKY !!!!!!!!

Laurin

November 9th, 2012
10:21 am

Ann Wilson is the one of the greatest voices in rock n roll history!!! Peaches 55, Martin Bruce and Kim G rock!!! I am driving 8 hours too see Heart in St. Petersburg FL at RibFest…I am so excited..last time I saw them was 1978 on the Dog and Butterfly tour….Nancy Wilson is an incredible guitarist ..especially on the acoustic guitar…..I play guitar because of Nancy Wilson….god given talent

smells like R&R

November 9th, 2012
7:34 pm

BE very grateful HEART is still on the road ~ still writing ~ still recording ~ still keeping ticket cost down ~ still sharing their art ~ still not takin shat from anyone & still administering the same kick yer arse into orbit then bring ya back around ROCK n ROLL music like music should be. A respectful reminder that Ann and Nancy Wilson have accomplished what few artists-musicians ever do..honestly..they maintained and stayed the course…for how many decades? Yeah…exactly..ya think the life and job of a tried and true musician is easy? SO…80 minutes of HEART is better than hearing “farewell tour..or disbanding ..or retiring” Long live the Wilson Sisters/HEART and the folks..fanatics..and freaks who love them.