Show Review: Heart at The Warfield, 10/22/09

by Dakin Hardwick on October 23, 2009

Gravity is optional.

Gravity is optional.

Why review Heart? Why now? They haven’t been relevant in quite a long time, and the last round of hits were arguably pretty hokey power ballads.

Well, there are a number of reasons to revere Heart. Primarily, they were the first rock band where women called all of the shots. They had complete creative control over songwriting, as well as marketing. Even if Heart were terrible, they still deserve a place in Rock n’ Roll history. (Seriously, Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. I love the punk rock, but how aren’t Heart inducted yet?)

So, as expected, the crowd was about 75% female, most of them over the age of 40.  This boggles my mind, only because a lot of other bands from this era have attracted a younger following. If Journey played here, we would see high schoolers, but I still felt that a lot of people were missing out. I will not devalue the importance of a band like Paramore, but when my niece asks for the new Paramore record for Christmas, I’m tempted to throw in Dreamboat Annie, just to help teach her a few things.

Alas, the crowd at this show was small, and mostly Heart veterans. But, at least this is my first experience seeing this band, which I’ve been longing to experience live ever since I first heard “Magic Man” in the movie Swingers. Alas, my anticipation was pretty high with this show. Aside from a Lovemongers show at the Fillmore that I couldn’t afford, since I was 17 years old at the time with no job, this was the first time Heart have played anywhere that someone living in the Bay Area without a car could see them since I first learned of them.

After a selection of classic rock songs played on the over head to a darkened stage, the band came out, and sped right in to the classic track “Barracuda,” playing with all the ferocity of a teenage punk band.

The early part of the show continued with the heavier, seventies sound. Ann Wilson’s voice was in amazing shape, while Nancy Wilson was fiery and frenetic. The band was filled out by Craig Bartok on guitar, Debbie Shair on keyboards, Rick Markmann on bass and Ben Smith on drums. While none of these players were original members, they played solidly and duplicated the original studio tracks perfectly well.

For the song “Love Alive,” Nancy moved to acoustic guitar, and showed off her amazing finger-picking style. Despite having the reputation as a hard rock band, I feel that they are at their best when they incorporate elements of English folk music, which may be a nod to Led Zeppelin, Heart’s closest relative in the rock music spectrum, and a band that was covered twice during this set.

A surprising stand out in the midst of this set was a song called “Avalon,” off 1995’s criminally underrated Back To Avalon. The song was lush and beautiful, and Nancy Wilson made full use of every finger to pluck this song, which borderlined on progressive rock. Then, she switched to mandolin for a rendition of “These Dreams,” a soft rock radio staple, and re-interpreted it as a sweeping folk ballad, which brought new life to the once stale song.

The main set closed with an epic take on “Crazy On You,” which had Nancy Wilson and Craig Bartok trading riffs (acoustic vs. electric) and Ann Wilson, who rarely moved around during the main set, strutting around the stage like the rock legend she is.

The encore was Led Zepplin’s “Going To California” and the aforementioned “Magic Man.” It was delightful and sweaty, and by the end had the crowd worked in to a frenzy that borderlined in pogo pit. It was a glorious, albeit short show (barely 90 minutes), and I hope that they don’t wait another 15 years to come back to San Francisco.

Set List:

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

yesyes October 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes. Heart rocked the Warfield like I have rarely seen it rocked. They are the real deal. In this age of corporate bands who can barely play guitar and lip sync, Heart shows everyone how it’s done!

I agree, if heart would release some videos of sweaty hard-core live shows like last night’s show at the Warfield, a lot more young people would show up!

Hey Heart, come back to the Warfield and videotape a concert!

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yesyes October 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Umm. I didn’t mean to imply that Heart does lip syncing. They do the opposite – they sing like nobody else. From power rock to sweet gorgeous delicate harmonies. If you’ve never seen Ann Wilson sing live, you are missing something rare and fine.

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DJ Kuul A October 28, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Their most recent concert video is pretty good.

Question: What is the importance of a band like Paramore? (Serious question — I’m 38 years old. 🙂 )

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