“She looked out her window one day, and saw a dog chasing a butterfly…” An intro to the song, “Dog & Butterfly”, the title track of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s 1978 album, and one of those songs that they don’t play every show. Heart’s show at Thunder Valley on Friday night was my second in as many months, and as I mentioned in my review of that concert at Mountain Winery, they do change things up from show to show. It’s also a reminder of just how many decades that they’ve been recording and touring hit music – they’ve actually been active as Heart since the year I was born, 1973. With the other show so fresh in my mind, for me personally, it was all about comparing and contrasting the two shows. Crowds create context, and Mountain Winery vs Thunder Valley is kind of like the wine-drinking city crowd vs the beer-drinking crowd from relatively more rural areas. Different energy and momentum, I’d say the smaller stage and softer environment of the winery venue made for a more intimate show while the bigger, tall stage and spotlights at this show was more rocking. As with each time I’ve seen them, the show was amazing and each member of the band had moments to showcase their special gifts and talents. They are one of my favorite bands to see live, and growing up with their music, they have the ability to tilt that adrenaline in my spine with those special moments in those songs I carry with me, that take me back to touch points in my life and feelings of nostalgia as they transport me back in time.
Supporting: Larisa Bryski
Venue: Thunder Valley Outdoor Amphitheater at Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Where: Lincoln, California
Promoter: Thunder Valley Casino Resort
When: September 18, 2015
Part of the Thunder Valley Summer Concert Series (#LiveOutLoud), for me this was definitely one of the top highlights of the season. While there were still a handful of seats at the GA bleachers in the back the night before the concert, I think it was sold out by showtime, as the place was packed.
- Larisa Bryski (vocals)
- Willy Seltzer (vocals, guitar)
Local singer-songwriter Larisa Bryski opened for Heart with original music that seemed to be a good match. Larisa was on the same stage a few years ago supporting Rewind Festival, including Berlin with Terri Nunn, for whom she wrote the song, “Stand Up”.
They did a great job getting the audience ready for an evening of fantastic music.
Below are photos of the Larisa Bryski performing on stage (click any image to open a virtual lightbox with higher resolution images):
- Ann Wilson (vocals, flute)
- Nancy Wilson (guitar, mandolin)
- Craig Bartock (guitar)
- Ben Smith (drums)
- Dan Rothchild (bass guitar)
- Chris Joyner (keyboards)
As I just reviewed Heart on this tour with their Mountain Winery show a few weeks ago, this borrows much from that recent article…
Heart are real legends in rock and roll. Which is all the more remarkable, in that the two sisters – Ann and Nancy Wilson – are women who have been blazing a trail in a male dominated industry for decades. There influence has been of such a magnitude, I can’t imagine it ever being repeated at the same scale in the future. These two are so incredibly gifted, and I personally place them at the very top when it comes to real legends in music – their artistic and professional accomplishments are seemingly endless. In spite of all that, they seem very down to earth and modest. At the core though, it does appear that they love what they do, so it was maybe meant to be.
The band has sold over 30 million records worldwide, with Top 10 albums charting on Billboard in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and in the current decade, as they’ve been quite prolific throughout their career and have consistently produced quality work. They are those rare artists with both commercial and critical success. Heart was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, wherein they did an incredible performance of Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.
As with my experiences with recent concerts, I was just blown away at what an amazing band Heart is… of course everything is predicated on the music, and they are really one of the most versatile artists in music, with hard and soft rock, some songs with more pop sensibilities, and of course the jaw dropping ballads. And with that catalog of music, you never really know what kind of palette that they will paint from on a given tour or evening. But somehow it all plays out quite organically as they go from one song to the next.
I’ve also noticed that they do tend to rearrange the songs slightly year to year, with different pacing and flourishes.
Of course Ann’s voice is at the heart of the band (I hate puns, but that is the best word to describe it). She is peerless in rock and roll, male or female, with her undeniable gift of voice. Words cannot describe. And her instrument seems to just mature more and more and still have the ability to truly “wow” an audience unlike any other vocalist.
These songs that Heart has created are not only incredible songs, but really push the limits as to what is actually possible to pull of vocally. Ann has such power in her voice, but it is drawn quite obviously from emotion and that is something that cannot be taught to someone – she was born with this ability to translate powerful feelings into music.
And, as always, Nancy Wilson has such a stage presence, it is impossible not to be completely enthralled and fascinated watching her perform so seemingly naturally and effortlessly. Unlike any of her peers, she brings tremendous femininity to rock music, but still has rock and roll gravitas, though in a completely female form. She is so singular in her on stage persona. For me, she is so beautiful and graceful, it is almost like watching rock star performance art, and it all seems to flow from her and so completely fits and suits their music; it is really something to behold. Of course, she is also an amazing vocalist in her own right, and funny enough, probably my favorite Heart song is “These Dreams”, where Nancy is on lead vocals (I’m a child of the 80s – it was such a huge song for me and opened up my world to new music). Nancy Wilson also did the song, “There’s The Girl” at this Thunder Valley show, which was different from the Mountain Winery show – I’m a huge fan of that song, so really thrilled to see it performed live this time around. Her trademark extended acoustic guitar intro for “Crazy On You” is nothing short of incredible.
Nancy’s counterpart on lead guitar, Craig Bartock, always puts in a stellar performance; somewhat understated on stage (for a guitarist), all the power is in the strings and coming through the speakers. He’s been in the music business for over three decades as a musician, songwriter, and producer, also working as a solo artist. He’s been working with Heart for over a dozen years. He seems to be a fantastic fit with the band.
As a mostly traditional rock and roll set up, each player has moments to shine, and the bass duties – handled by Dan Rothchild – kick in throughout, especially with their more rocking and thumping songs.
Ben Smith is an animal on the drums, and watching him drive the songs forward can be intoxicating.
Chris Joyner has taken the place of Debbie Shair on keyboards and he does a wonderful job, particularly some of the 80s-era numbers like “These Dreams” where they feature so prominently.
As mentioned with my Mountain Winery review and true again here, one of my favorite moments in the show was their performance of “Dear Old America”, a song written for their father. Phenomenal song performed live, this one is off of 2012’s Fanatic.
But it was end to end pure bliss in music, and a real journey that just touched on what they’ve created for us, that continues to endure and find a new audience every day. Classic music from real icons in rock and roll.
Below is the set list from the concert at Thunder Valley on 9/18/2015…
- Kick It out
- What About Love
- Straight On
- There’s the Girl
- Dog & Butterfly
- Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters (Elton John cover)
- These Dreams
- Even It Up
- Dear Old America
- The Witch (The Sonics cover)
- Crazy On You
- Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
- No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover)
- Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin cover)
Below are some photos of Heart performing on stage (click any image to open a virtual lightroom with higher resolution versions of each photo):