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Live Review: Heart @ CFG Bank Arena — 5/13/24

“We tend to come back to the original ways,” Ann Wilson, lead singer of Heart, recently told the massive crowd at the CFG Bank Arena.

I think in a lot of ways that’s the story of Heart. It’s one that began in the early 1970s and changed and moved, but in the end came back to the core of what this iconic band has always been at its, well, heart. Heart is the embodiment of the musical partnership between Ann and Nancy Wilson. 

It’s that music they create that has a certain magic. There have been studies that show evidence of real tangible effects of music on how the brain stores and retrieves information. That sound of music has a way of bringing you back to a time or place that may have been locked away in the recesses of the brain. 

As CFG Bank Arena began to fill up on May 13, I noticed that many of the older fans in attendance were more engaged than most crowds I’ve seen in recent years.  Maybe it was that awakening of those memories. Or maybe it was the power of those chords and that incomparable voice. Or perhaps it was a combination of all of that. 

Opening the evening were Cheap Trick, legends themselves, who coincidentally formed around the same time as Heart in 1973. Both bands also seemed to take a similar trajectory through the ’70s with resurgences in the ’80s. From opener, “Hello There” to “Dream Police” and “Surrender,” Cheap Trick put on a brilliant set that encapsulated a whole career in such a short amount of time. 

Before Heart came out on stage, a series of images marking each year from 1973 to 2024 played over the video screens above the venue floor. And the images changed to pictures of the present, the curtain came down and Heart came out, playing “Bebe Le Strange” from the album of the same name released in 1979. 

Watch Heart perform “Bebe Le Strange” live from their album Live in Atlantic City on YouTube:

This Heart reunion is something relatively new. While both Ann and Nancy Wilson have released recent solo albums (and have even shown up to guest at each other’s solo shows) this tour as Heart is the real deal. In fact, the current incarnation of Heart includes, along with veteran guitarist Ryan Waters, members of Ann Wilson and Tripsitter: Ryan Wariner on lead guitar, Tony Lucido on bass, Paul Moak on guitar and keyboards, and Sean T Lane on drums. 

I’ve heard in interviews with both Ann and Nancy how the band wanted the material in their live shows to be genuine, and this was definitely a powerful heartfelt performance. 

Although a bit embarrassed to admit, I hadn’t seen Heart perform before, but their music had been an integral part of my youth. Like so many in this crowded arena, hearing songs like “Crazy On You” or even “These Dreams” bring back specific memories. You can feel those times when you first heard those records. 

“It’s been since 2019 since Heart has been on tour together,” Ann Wilson told the crowd. “And we both did separate solo things in the interim… Tonight Nancy was kind enough to ask that we do this next song which is from my solo project in this Heart show.”

Heart then performed “This Is Now” from her album Another Door. I couldn’t help but feel that although there were only a couple of new songs — the aforementioned “This Is Now” and Nancy Wilson’s “4 Edward With Love” – the way they set perfectly in between older tunes like “Dog and Butterfly” and “Dreamboat Annie” gave me hope of seeing a proper new Heart album down the road. 

As the band played the Dog & Butterfly song “Straight On,” it took a brief detour into a cover of the David Bowie classic “Let’s Dance” so nicely it felt like it should have been there all along. 

Taking the lead, Nancy Wilson sang “These Dreams” while playing mandolin. Although that period may have been contentious for the band — the song was written by Bernie Taupin (of Elton John fame) and Martin Page rather than the Wilson sisters — hearing Nancy and Ann harmonize has a special place in my heart (no pun intended) as I imagine a lot of fans do. I remember hearing the song played on the radio, not realizing it was the same band that belted out “Barracuda” 10 years before then. 

Having not seen Heart live before, it was a thrill to see Nancy Wilson kick off “Crazy On You” with that picked acoustic guitar before that all-too-familiar strum. As the night went on, Ann Wilson’s voice seemed to get stronger and those anthemic high notes had bite. 

Nancy Wilson took a moment to introduce a song she wrote for Eddie Van Halen. “He complimented me on my acoustic playing and I said you should play more acoustic. And he said ‘I don’t have an acoustic.’” To his surprise, Wilson gave Van Halen her acoustic guitar and he ended up calling her to play what he had written over the phone. “And when he left us I thought I’d return the favor,” she added before playing a beautiful number, “4 Edward With Love” that incorporated elements of Van Halen’s “Jump” in the piece. 

Watch a performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” by Heart on YouTube:

It’s no secret that Heart have been fans of Led Zeppelin, having famously performed an amazing version “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors back in 2012, but seeing the band perform both “Going to California” and then encore with “The Ocean” was perfect. 

After performing “Magic Man” to end the set, we all knew there had to be an encore as I noticed no one was moving from their seats. Heart did, in fact, come back to play not only Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” but they finished with arguably their biggest hit, “Barracuda” to flashing lights and a roar from the crowd. 

Heart continue on with their Royal Flush Tour through the end of the year. 

The setlist included:
Bebe Le Strange
Love Alive
Little Queen
This Is Now (Ann Wilson & Tripsitter cover)
Straight On / Let’s Dance
These Dreams
Crazy on You
Dog & Butterfly
Dreamboat Annie
Going to California (Led Zeppelin cover)
4 Edward With Love (Nancy Wilson song)
Mistral Wind
Alone / What About Love
Magic Man

The Ocean (Led Zeppelin cover)

Here are some photos of Heart performing at CFG Bank Arena on May 13, 2024. All pictures by Criss Cain.

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