It’s no stretch to say that the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors did more for Heart than for Led Zeppelin, the band to whom they paid tribute. As millions of YouTube viewers have now seen, Heart’s breathtaking rendition of Stairway To Heaven drew excited approval from Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, while reducing Robert Plant to tears.
Since then, Heart have remained at the forefront of the enduring 70s nostalgia fest, reclaiming much of the stature they seemed to have lost in the wake of the commercial balladry of their 80s MTV phase. In 2013 the band’s iconic line-up reunited – for one night only – for the first time in over three decades at their Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction, and last year the band entered the Top 20 of the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart with Fanatic Live From Caesars Colosseum.Capitalising on this meteoric momentum, tonight Heart kick off their North American tour with a (relatively) intimate show at the House Of Blues in Las Vegas.
Striding out onto a dimly lit stage, the Seattle rockers go straight for the throat with an audaciously sleazy Magic Man, with guitarists Nancy Wilson and Craig Bartock’s electrifying dexterity raising the capacity crowd to their feet. With a nearly four-decade-spanning catalogue as familiar to the audience as the way home, the band pound through anthem after anthem, including Heartless, What About Love, Straight On and a roof-destroying Kick It Out.
While Ann Wilson is properly recognised as one of the best vocalists of her era, Nancy showcases her own considerable skills as a singer on There’s The Girl. Guitar in hand, Ann re-emerges and greets the Heart Mongers – a noisy legion of their official fan club – ushering in a ballad-heavy interlude with a transfixing Dog & Butterfly, a long‑standing live show staple underpinned by the sisters’ velvety harmonies and gossamer acoustic textures
Paying tribute to lyricist Bernie Taupin, Heart’s cover of Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters celebrates their understated gift for channelling potent pop hooks through a bluesy rock prism. Yet with such a hit-rich reservoir of original material to draw from, rolling out a cover this early feels too soon. They follow with These Dreams, another Taupin power ballad (co-written with Martin Page) that fixed the cornerstone of their 80s comeback, earning them their first No.1 slot on the Billboard charts. Heart’s 1987, department store-friendly cover of Alone has likely paid for more than its fair share of swimming pools, private jets and five-star holidays. And while some might view it as endemic of the saccharine excesses of late-80s production styles, tonight the first few notes of the song’s instantly recognisable keyboard intro inspire a thunderous assent usually reserved for match-winning, injury-time goals.
Wrapping things up with a pummelling pair of their greatest hits, Crazy On You and Barracuda, Nancy dashes about the stage, swirling in a blur of power chords and karate kicks. Finally the band pay homage to the time-honoured tradition of leaving the stage for a moment, only to return for an all-Zeppelin encore consisting of The Immigrant Song, No Quarter and a shattering take on Misty Mountain Hop.
Offering their thanks, the band once again file off the stage, and there’s a moment of uncertainty about whether they’re coming back out.
Perhaps it’s the size of Heart’s catalogue, the tight execution of the show or the baffling fact that nearly a third of the set was covers, but their 17-song set still feels a bit brief. As if reading our minds, a woman shouts: “Too short!” as the lights come up.