“Women Who Rock.”
It’s trendy to apply the phrase to women who make a difference, like strong mothers, C-suite females, altruists with a cause and women who have beaten the odds. Regardless of context, the phrase is a compliment. But in its original literal sense, “women who rock” describes this week’s artist pair, two women whose voices could rock the roof right off the venue.
With vibrant and seductive energy, the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Grace Potter of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have a riveting stage presence. Add to that their distinctive voices, beauty and ample guitar riffs and you’ve got live shows to be remembered.
I paired these artists for three reasons. First, Ann Wilson and Ms. Potter are strong-voiced frontwomen who break the mold and rock as hard as their male counterparts. They’re not afraid to scream, wail and screech to create a mood. Second, the identity of each band is linked to these frontwomen — they’re who the fans come to see. Last, Nancy Wilson and Ms. Potter are adept instrumentalists, Nancy with her guitar riffs, Ms. Potter with her guitar, keyboards and more.
Video by Stifitchen
Heart was formed in 1973 (earlier under various names) by the Wilsons and has endured for four decades. Influenced by hard rock and heavy metal, the sisters paved the way for women in rock, leading their band, writing the songs and playing the instruments, too. They climbed the ‘70s charts with hits like “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” “Straight On” and “Barracuda.”
Their ‘80s musical direction took a softer turn, with more synth-driven pop that felt more like adult-contemporary than their signature rock. Some say they lost their edge; “more imitators than trendsetters,” said one blog critic. But they enjoyed a comeback from 1985 into the ‘90s, returning to their hard rock and acoustic folk roots with hits like “Jupiter’s Darling” and “Red Velvet Car.” Selling 30 million records worldwide, Heart was ranked No. 57 on VH1’s Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Their individual talents landed them song credits in film as well; Ann’s voice in motion picture soundtracks like “Footloose,” while Nancy composed and performed scores to a half-dozen films including “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous.”
If you’re a Heart fan, you’re in luck as they are currently on tour. The motivation: their memoir “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll” is just out, along with their new album “Fanatic” and a box set, “Strange Euphoria” (a Heart history with CDs, a DVD and a comprehensive song booklet). Heart fans will be busy.
Video by Bonnaroo365
But here I want to give a nod to the new girl in town. Grace Potter rocks from her heart in the group bearing her name: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, a Vermont rock band formed in 2002 at St. Lawrence University. Ms. Potter and her band did things the old-fashioned way, putting their effort into touring instead of looking for record deals. They did countless music fests, later opening for big acts, which gradually built them a following by word of mouth. Like some of Heart’s hits, Grace’s music has been claimed by Hollywood as a soundtrack for film and for television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “E.R.'’
Her sound is authentic rock and roll, with all sorts of colors. At live shows you can’t take your eyes off the beautiful Grace, whose head-swinging, arm-flying, long-legged, miniskirted silhouette storms around the the stage. Fans are immediately transfixed by the performance, only later coming to realize that her voice is pitch perfect. And the music is diverse. With Grace you’ll travel from hard rock to ballad to dance rock and back. The band’s newest album, “The Lion the Beast the Beat,” released on June 12, is definitely worth a listen. Grace and the band are on tour now. If she’s gracing your town, go. It will be a show to remember.
Video by Gpnfan123
Grace Potter and Heart even shared a stage at VH1’s DIVAS 2010 concert for the troops, and so I break the format a bit this week to include that video, just to prove the point. I think you’ll enjoy it.