Heart December 18, 2010 Mystic Lake Casino
The power balladeers of my childhood, hard rock queens of my mother's adolescence, Heart weren't just role models for generations of young American women - they helped define for me and likely for many others the role of sexual politics in our culture.[jump]
That two women, sisters, could in an effort to create buzz be salaciously marketed by their record label as probable lesbians (in a relationship with one another???) in an era where actual lesbians (who didn't allegedly sleep with their biological sisters) were persecuted was mind-boggling to me, even as a teenager first learning Heart's history. That such a talented duo could have that talent be overshadowed by "weight problems" (which most people I know would chalk up not at all to "problems" but "quite normal," and in fact even "sexy problems") was, even in my youth, something I could identify as a "problem" only assigned to female musicians, and which I knew was as bullshit then as it is today when the tabloids scream over Christina Aguilera or Jessica Simpson putting on 10 or 20 pounds. Ick.
Can I turn this rundown of Heart's Saturday night performance at Mystic into a feminist manifesto? Fuck yeah I can; I'll turn whatever the hell I want into a feminist manifesto.
But then again, in doing so I'm perhaps assigning a pair of female musicians into a sphere of, for, and by women (a feminist one), which may be defeating the whole purpose of hoping for straight-up equality for those musicians. So on second thought, forget the mind-boggling lesbian rumors. Forget the accusations of "weight problems." And I'll say this instead: Heart have consistently kicked ass harder than any dude group of any era in which they were performing. They were doing it in the 70s. They were doing it in the '80s. They still do today. So let's now consider their unabashed awesomeness, and forget about their gender and all the bullshit assigned to them because of it.
Their performance at Mystic Saturday night confirmed for this writer their continuing awesomeness. With Ann and Nancy Wilson at the helm of a strong supporting band, Heart rocked harder than anyone I've seen before at Mystic, which may not seem like much until you know I've seen Hank Williams Jr. here, and he pretty much epitomizes rock machismo from his NFL t-shirt to his playing grand piano glissandi with his groin. Their performance proved higher energy than many musicians I've seen half their age, even when compared with young men full of attitude (and often, copious amounts of performance-enhancing cocaine). After almost 40 (!) years of performing, Heart still possess their signature guitar chops and blow-the-roof-off vocals. Also important to note - Ann Wilson can sell a rock flute way better than any other rocker before or after her, from Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) to Jerry Eubanks (Marshall Tucker Band).
By the end of the night, Heart had turned in a 90+ minute set generously packed with the best of their hits, a few more obscure tunes or tracks off their recent release Red Velvet Car, and an encore comprised of KQ staples from the Who and Led Zeppelin, performances of which proved they can outperform even the best of the best. Just listen to Ann's powerful-as-ever voice and try to argue. Just try.
Critic's bias: The BS these two have had to deal with as female musicians makes me want to smash things. The crowd: Equal parts fans from the band's earliest days and children of the 80s, all dancing. Overheard in the crowd: Girl One: "I'm gonna have to apologize if I dance, they're like my favorite band." Moments later, Girl One: "Her voice..." Girl Two (Girl One's Scando-Suburban friend: "Like buttah." Random notebook dump: Later Girl One's husband clapped at her like a dog when she couldn't find her way back to her seat. Girl Two snapped her fingers at her hubby when he couldn't find his seat. What were Girl One and Girl Two's hubby off doing for four whole songs I'd love to know. I hope I'm never asked to explain the sexual dynamic of the two couples sitting in front of us at the Heart show.
Set list: Cook With Fire Heartless What About Love Straight On For You Dog and Butterfly These Dreams Hey You Even It Up Red Velvet Car In the Cool Alone W.T.F. Magic Man Crazy On You Barracuda Encore: What Is and What Should Never Be Love Reign O'er Me