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Heart opens PNE Fair in full force
 

Ann Wilson of Heart sings during a concert at the PNE, Vancouver, August 18 2012.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG

VANCOUVER -- The PNE Fair’s Summer Nights concerts series kicked off with a bang Saturday night when Seattle classic rockers Heart delivered a blistering set that brought heat worthy of the past two weeks of summer we’ve had in Vancouver.

Fans of all ages filled the WestJet concert stage area to the brim, forcing gate attendants to bring out the “show full” signs long before sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson hit the stage to the sound of Led Zeppelin’s In The Light.

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Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide over the past four decades, the bulk of them in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and has been enjoying of a resurgence over the past few years thanks to a new album, 2010’s Red Velvet Car, which saw them reconnect with their harder roots.

Little material from that album was part of the setlist Saturday night, an evening mostly focused on the hits, much to the delight of the crowd at the PNE.

There were however a few songs from their forthcoming album Fanatic, which comes out in October, including the album’s rifftacular title track to open the set.

Fans could barely contain themselves when the band kicked into Magic Man early on, keyboardist Debbie Shair handing out that big synthetic swoop in the song’s break and filling the air with electricity.

Heart was really in full hard rock force on Heartless and new song Mashallah, Nancy Wilson and guitarist Craig Bartok in charge of those crunchy riffs, showing the undeniable influence Heart has had in shaping Seattle’s grunge sound, especially with its older material. At times if you closed your eyes you could swear you were listening to Soundgarden or Alice In Chains.

Ann was in amazing vocal form, belting out What About Love with a fierce soulfulness.

She gave a tip of the hat to the band’s connection to Vancouver, where the band spent some time in the ‘70s.

“We’ve got so much history here,” she said.

“What’s a few decades between friends and family?” she added after Straight On, a song where sister Nancy was a commanding presence on her blue Telecaster, shimmying and shaking all over the left side of the stage and whipping her blonde mane around.

The sisters joined forces on acoustic guitars for the lovely Dog & Butterfly and the flute-laden Walkin’ Good, a new song that will feature singer Sarah McLachlan when it is released on Fanatic.

A quick detour into the ‘80s brought the shimmery These Dreams and the spine-tingling Alone, Ann delivering a powerhouse vocal performance that brought tears to your eyes.

“Should we do it again?” Ann joked as she received a well deserved ovation.

It would end with the volume cranked to 11 with Dear Old America, a synth-heavy anti-war rocker the Wilson sisters dedicated to their father who fought in Korea, and the Guitar Hero-worthy Crazy On You and Barracuda, where Nancy and Bartok pulled out all the stops: dueling fretboard harmonics, rock kicks, the works.

For a band more accustomed to the casino circuit nowadays, Heart set the bar stadium-high at the PNE Saturday night, proving they are still a force to be reckoned with.

fmarchand@vancouversun.com

Blog: vancouversun.com/awesomesound

twitter.com/FMarchandVS


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