With all due respect to Roger Fisher, its founding guitar slinger, Heart has always been about the Wilson sisters, lead vocalist Ann and guitarist Nancy.
Fisher left the band more than 35 years ago, but the Wilsons have soldiered on capably, backed by a variety of musicians, reviving and sustaining the songs that have made Heart one of the more enduring and endearing 1970s bands.
Friday night Heart treated a crowd of about 2,000 at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland to almost 90 minutes of hits and covers, including a show-closing tribute to Led Zeppelin.
The show was a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen, the foundation that raises money to fight breast cancer. The floor of the theater was populated by hundreds of people seated at tables. The balcony and Chandelier Bar were nearly full. Despite the formal setting on the floor, the crowd was enthusiastic throughout the set.
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Heart opened with “Kick It Out,” a hit from the “Little Queen” album, now nearly 40 years old. The Wilson sisters have lost little of their luster or vigor. Ann Wilson, who turned 65 in June, still has a powerful, skyscraping voice that can nail all the big, high notes, and Nancy is still a ringer on guitar, whether firing off an occasional lead or plucking and strumming a rhythm. Their harmonies were sharp and clean all night.
The band is now a six-piece, including Ben Smith, Heart’s drummer for 20 years — the longest run of any current band member except the Wilsons — and guitarist Craig Bartock, whose leads were mostly faithful to the originals.
The set list featured most of their favorites and hits: hard-rock anthems like “Heartless,” “Even It Up” and “Barracuda,” and power ballads like “What About Love,” “Alone” and “These Dreams.” They dropped in several covers, some of them a bit odd: “Two,” a Neo song, and Elvis Costello’s “God Give Me Strength.” With much sass and flair, Ann Wilson also pulled off a short version of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing.”
This was a bare-bones presentation. The stage was furnished sparingly, and there was little stage banter, aside from a few warm greetings and expressions of appreciation. Otherwise, the songs were performed much like the way they were recorded. One disappointment: the shortened version of “Crazy on You,” one of Heart’s best songs.
In December 2012, with a choir, an orchestra and a band that included Jason Bonham, the Wilsons delivered a memorable cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors as part of a tribute to Led Zeppelin. Friday night they closed with a rousing, three-song encore of Zeppelin songs, including “Immigrant Song” and “Misty Mountain Hop,” each delivered with all the grandiosity of the originals. It was an apt closing to a show that revealed that the heart of Heart is still beating loudly and strongly.
Kick It Out; Heartless; What About Love; Get Up Offa That Thing; These Dreams; Two; Sand; Alone; Even It Up; Bebe Le Strange; God Give Me Strength; Crazy on You; Barracuda. Encore: Immigrant Song; No Quarter; Misty Mountain Hop.