Heart Build a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in Ohio – Concert Review
It’s not every day that the CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame takes time out of his busy schedule to introduce a band onstage, as Greg Harris did last Monday night (July 22) at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Then again, when the band he’s introducing is Heart – a 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee – and it’s their first concert in Cleveland since the induction ceremony, the gesture makes perfect sense.
Heart proved once again why their induction was long overdue with a strong set of their own material and a raucous encore of Led Zeppelin covers performed with members of the tour’s opening act, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.
Tracklist-wise, Heart’s 70-minute main set was similar to the one they’ve played on recent summer tours: Older singles (‘Heartless,’ ‘Kick It Out’) raged in between the band’s ’80s hits (‘Alone,’ ‘What About Love’), classic-rock staples (‘Barracuda,’ ‘Magic Man’) and newer tunes (the ferocious ‘Dear Old America’).
Still, the set brought a couple of nice surprises. After a tranquil version of ‘Dog & Butterfly’ — a song the band correctly singled out for causing plenty of “heartstring buzz” — Nancy Wilson did a lovely solo acoustic folk version of Elton John’s ‘I Need You to Turn To.’
A version of ‘Mistral Wind’ began as delicately as these songs, but soon bloomed into a ferocious rocker; Ann Wilson screamed “Mistral! Mistral!” as a gnarly tornado of sound erupted behind her that was reminiscent of their Seattle pals Alice in Chains. And the country-tinged boogie ‘Even It Up’ — introduced by Ann as “another song from the far-out ’70s” — had a playful tone that belied its pleas for equality.
Perhaps because Heart were the headlining act on this summer tour (or because they were warming up to cover/honor Led Zeppelin) their set had a little something extra. Little details during the night — a heavier take on ‘Magic Man,’ the sisters hamming it up onstage during ‘Kick It Out,’ Ann ramping up the theatricality during ‘Alone’; Nancy adding tension to her opening guitar shot on ‘Crazy on You’ — elevated the performance.
The Led Zeppelin portion of the show opened with just Ann and Nancy (the former on acoustic guitar, the latter on mandolin) reprising the version of ‘Battle of Evermore’ they recorded as the Lovemongers. As with the main set, this familiar cover had extra oomph: Nancy’s vocals boasted obvious shades of Robert Plant’s emoting, and their alternating vocals were crisper and lighthearted.
After being joined onstage by drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Tony Catania, the expanded group did a barnstorming version of ‘The Song Remains the Same,’ as well as a mystical, psychedelic take on ‘The Rain Song’ and suitably heavy versions of ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Immigrant Song.’
The encore ended with a goose bump-inducing version of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ which was every bit as striking as it was when Heart played the song at the Kennedy Center Honors last year. The crowd cheered and sang along loudly as the tune unfolded and finally hit a crescendo with Ann belting out the song’s climactic high notes with bluesy power. A perfect end to a satisfying night of music.