5th Street Stage
Virginia Beach, VA
September 5th, 2009
Legendary Seattle band Heart headlined the American Music Festival on Saturday night. For an hour and a half, they ran through hit after hit after hit, to the delight of the 20,000 plus fans who packed themselves in front of the beachside stage. The crowd roared as the familiar, opening riff to "Barracuda" blasted forth from the amplifiers and set the tone for the evening. It was evident from the start that sisters Ann (vocals) and Nancy (Guitar) Wilson, along with the rest of Heart, were here to rock.
If there was ever any question as to whether Ann Wilson possesses one of the greatest voices in rock n roll history, let it be said that she proved it tonight. And Nancy's guitar playing was unreal as she stormed around the stage, kicking her boots to the heavens as if she were a member of the Rockettes. It's no wonder this band was honored at the VH1 Rock Honors show in 2007 and ranked number 57 on the channel's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock".
Rounded out by guitarist Craig Bartock, bassist Ric Markmann, keyboardist Debbie Shair and drummer Ben Smith, the current incarnation of Heart ripped through mainstays from the 70's like "Crazy On You" and "Magic Man" and 80's power-ballads like "Never", "These Dreams", "What About Love" and "Alone". But make no mistake, Heart weren't content to play the role of nostalgia act. The fact that the band was playing music spanning three decades was hardly noticeable as the timeless songs flowed together seamlessly.
Highlights of the evening included the two Led Zeppelin covers, "Immigrant Song" (with Nancy Wilson on mandolin) and "Going to California", which due to Ann Wilson's vocals, would have impressed the Golden God himself (perhaps Robert Plant should throw in a Heart cover or two on his next solo album). Debbie Shair's keyboard playing was phenomenal and well, entertaining to say the least. She bobbed her pigtailed head up and down and never stopped grinning throughout the entire set. It was evident that she was thrilled to share the stage with such rock royalty.
Music festivals like this one often bring out the one hit wonders and acts that are trying to re-create the magic of a lost era. Heart's inspired set ensured they didn't fall into the latter category and the sheer number of hits certainly proved they weren't part of the former. Here's to hoping Ann, Nancy and the rest of the crew continue doing what they do for another decade!