Heart: Rock's pioneering sister act continues to look ahead while piling up the honors
BY JON FERGUSON, Staff Writer
Die-hard fans of Heart will say the band's invitation to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came too late, but the timing actually seems to be just about perfect for the band, which which will perform Sunday night at the American Music Theatre.
The Seattle-based band, which is led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson and got its start in the 1960s, seems to be in the midst of a career upswing.
The Wilson sisters -- Ann is the singer and Nancy is the guitarist -- had all kinds of projects and honors going on last year.
In the retrospective category, they released a fascinating boxed set called "Strange Euphoria" and wrote their autobiography, "Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll."
More significantly, Heart released a hard-charging album called "Fanatic." The album comes on the heels of "Red Velvet Car," a 2010 effort that also was hailed by fans and critics alike.
"If you're just looking back," Nancy Wilson, 58, says during a telephone interview from her Seattle home, "then you feel old if there's nothing new you're putting forward. It was super-important for us creatively to do something new while we were doing the retrospective of the box set and the book, too. Without the new record I think we would have felt like, 'Well, OK, we'll hang up our hats and bye-bye.' "
The Wilson sisters, who as Heart have had Top 10 albums on the Billboard Album Chart in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2010s, last year got their own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The folks behind the Walk of Fame honored the band for its contributions to music, which are legion. As well as the best-selling albums, Heart, which helped break down barriers for women in the rock music world, has made a passel of memorable singles, including "Magic Man," "Crazy on You," "Straight On," "These Dreams" and "Alone."
Later in 2012, they got the news that Heart would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
"It's been sort of a pressurized situation because of our fans, who are super-loyal and really outspoken about this stuff," Nancy Wilson says. "It's like, 'Why haven't you been inducted?' And we're like, 'We don't know, maybe it's a boys club.'
"Being excluded, we've had a long history of that so we don't take it super-personally. We just keep going and working hard. In this case, when it really happened, we were super-thrilled."
The capper for the band came in December, when they were invited to help pay homage to the surviving members of Led Zeppelin as part of the Kennedy Center Honors.
The Wilson sisters, with the help of Jason Bonham (the son of the late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) on drums, two choirs and a small orchestra, performed "Stairway to Heaven."
And they killed.
Robert Plant actually tears up during the performance and Jimmy Plant and John Paul Jones watch with huge grins on their faces.
The video of the performance went viral on YouTube and has generated more than 4 million hits. Heart's version of the song also is available for sale on iTunes.
"It was so beautiful to give that to (the members of Led Zeppelin) and pull it off," Nancy Wilson says. "Afterwards, each one individually came around and told us how much they loved it in their various ways.
"Jimmy Page was, like, 'You really can play.' He's kind of my muse. Plant actually said, 'You know I was so surprised because I really have learned to hate that song because people just murder it left and right, and I was so pleased that you did it so great.' "
No one should have been surprised that Heart was able to effectively channel Led Zeppelin. The band has been covering Zeppelin songs in spectacular fashion for years. During last year's tour, they regularly closed their shows with a Zeppelin cover, including versions of "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll" and "Misty Mountain Hop."
Given that, it would make sense if one of the Zeppelin guys delivers the introduction when Heart is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"That would be one million thrills if any of the Zeppelin guys did it," Nancy Wilson says. "And they're all really comfortable at public speaking. They're no fools."
She says, however, that the person who will introduce the band has yet to be determined.
Nancy Wilson, who divorced screenwriter and director Cameron Crowe in 2010 and married Geoff Bywater last year, is the mother of twin boys who recently turned 13.
She says her sons are big fans of Heart.
"They like 'Fanatic' a lot," she says. "And they like some of the big tried-and-true hits as well. Now, with the 'Stairway to Heaven' thing, it's like, 'Wow, Mom.' "
Sun. 7 p.m. $75-$105
American Music Theatre
2425 Lincoln Highway East