Concert Review: Heart Brings a Whole Lotta Love and Some Led Zeppelin Too

Newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart stopped by Sleep County Amphitheater on Friday in Ridgefield, WA en route to the final show of their Heartbreaker tour which also featured Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.

Suffice it to say, Ann and Nancy Wilson broke the glass ceiling for women in rock a long time ago. Call it another “causality” to the silliness of the voting panel deciding who gets into the Rock Hall – Heart belonged there years ago and Friday’s show proved it.

Ann Wilson’s vocal prowess gives her the title for one of the best female voices in all of rock history. Add to her talents on stage, sister Nancy, who can out play anyone in the Top 10 today on the guitar, and you have a formula for greatness. Really, is there better eye candy than an already fabulous looking woman, laced up in all black, strapped to a guitar?

The evening didn’t start so well with a slow and somewhat cumbersome “Barracuda” which sounded more like the band trying to iron the wrinkles out at the start of the tour. But “Heartless” the first track off their 1978 effort Magazine proved timeless and third up – “What About Love” showed Ann defying time and a months’ long tour.

At the age when most women are thinking about, if not settling into retirement, Ann at 63, looked nowhere near her age and she not only sounded fresh but her vocals  were biting and strong. That smoky rasp to her lower octave is pure rock and that cutting falsetto – perhaps a bit of the edge lost  but you’d never know it live – so prominent throughout the evening especially on the heavy “Mistral Wind.”

“Magic Man” – there’s a reason it’s a staple on classic rock radio –  and the head bobbing “Kick it Out” showed the girls in prime form. They mixed it up a bit with the title track from 1978’s Dog and Butterfly using heavier keyboards giving the song a much different almost whimsical feel. It did not measure up to the studio version. Heart played nothing from last year’s Fanatic instead sticking to their 70s and 80s material.

Nancy needed no spotlight to shine, but front and center by herself, she thanked the crowd and dedicated the Elton John song “I Need You to Turn To” bringing her soft melodious voice and the acoustic guitar to life which she followed with the hit “These Dreams” showing not only heart but that the band has two solid singers.

The emotion laden “Alone” featuring just the Wilson’s and keyboardist Debbie Shair lost some if its punch since it got toned back a bit with the exclusion of that thundering entrance to the chorus. But Ann’s raw vocals still managed to bring chills.

Ann dedicated “Dear Old America” a solid hard rock number to her father, a marine, as well as all who have served. Heart finished the first set with one of the finest rock songs ever recorded, “Crazy on You,” featuring that most recognizable intro with Nancy’s classic sounding guitar.

The ladies now officially own Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” which they opened the encore with as a duet – both sisters on vocal duty with Ann on guitar and Nancy on the mandolin. It was one of their finest moments. Jason Bonham, who opened the show with his Led Zeppelin Experience, returned to the stage for the five final songs.

Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, performed admirably, however the evening remained with Heart. “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Immigrant Song” were done so well you forgot they were cover songs. In fact, Ann sang the Led Zeppelin songs better than her own songs. “The Rain Song” was slow and drizzly, much like a typical winter day in the Pacific Northwest and could have been dropped from the setlist.

However, despite the talent on stage including an extra guitarist, “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven” are indeed Zeppelin anthems. Heart did justice to “Kashmir” but the churched-up “Stairway” with the addition of a large choir was borderline silly. The song remained the same for the most part but the embellishment took away from its grandeur.

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience opened for Heart and cranked through six Led Zeppelin songs starting with “Rock and Roll.” Bonham is a solid drummer and how he found lead singer James Dylan is a small miracle. Dylan’s vocals were uncanny to Robert Plant’s and when he hit the falsetto’s you’d swear Dylan was lip sinking to a recording.

Yes, he sounded that good.

Much credit should be given to Bonham who did a solid job with his band and his humbleness simply adds to his credibility. He appeared nervous at times and even quite emotional when addressing the crowd but he genuinely sounded thankful to not only the crowd but for the honor to play his father’s music.

If it’s in the cards, a bigger production and amped up stage show could turn Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience into what Brit Floyd has done for Pink Floyd.

Heart Portland Setlist (Sleep Country Amphitheater):

  1. Barracuda
  2. Heartless
  3. What About Love?
  4. Magic Man
  5. Kick it Out
  6. Mistral Wind
  7. Even it Up
  8. Dog and Butterfly
  9. I Need You to Turn To
  10. These Dreams
  11. Alone
  12. Dear Old America
  13. Crazy on You
  14. Battle of Evermore
  15. Misty Mountain Hop
  16. Immigrant Song
  17. The Rain Song
  18. Kashmir
  19. Stairway to Heaven

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience Portland Setlist:

  1. Rock and Roll
  2. Black Dog
  3. Over the Hills and Far Away
  4. Houses of the Holy
  5. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  6. The Ocean
  7. When the Levy Breaks
  8. Whole Lotta Love


Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Chris Isaak Plays Wicked Long Set at Oregon Zoo

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Chris Isaak at the Oregon Zoo

Chris Isaak is simply awesome.

The founder of one of the greatest songs ever recorded played to a packed house on Sunday night in the penultimate concert of the Oregon Zoo’s Summer Concert series. Isaak and his band didn’t just perform, they entertained, playing 29 songs for nearly two hours – some of it during the rain – well past the regular setlist of about 20 songs.

Loaded with self-deprecating humor, Isaak joked that many in the audience were on probation and took the chance at seeing his concert over picking up trash as a penalty. He poked fun of his suit, a stylish get-up reminiscent of one his idols – Elvis Presley – and toyed with band mates all while showing just how fun a blend of 50s traditional rock n roll, honky tonk, and ballads mixed with Isaak’s vocals and modern touch can be.

The first half of the set consisted of Isaak’s original songs before he plunged into 2011’s mostly covers album Beyond the Sun which was recorded in Memphis’ Sun Studios – the birthplace of the originals.

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Chris Isaak jamming with bassist Rowland Salley

The up tempo “The Best I Ever Had” started the evening which was followed by “Speak of the Devil” and “Two Hearts.” You can’t get more pure than Isaak’s falsetto on “Two Hearts” and “Somebody’s Crying” – a crowd favorite that preceded “Wicked Game” – the song which propelled Isaak into the music stratosphere in 1991.

Isaak kept the paralyzing number, first heard instrumentally in the movie “Wild at Heart,” true to form with those haunting guitar wails and the soft tenor Isaak is so known for. He closed “Wicked” with that extended beautiful falsetto so luscious on the album tract but simply melting live. The band nailed it and could have gone home for the night after a rousing applause from a very happy crowd.

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Chris Isaak on stage with his brother Nick

The band stepped up the tempo with the very pop sounding “Go Walking Down There” and Isaak, with no more reason to prove his vocal strength, drops several octaves with “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing.” The band then left Isaak’s original material behind and jumped back a few decades starting with Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “It’s Now or Never” proved beyond a doubt that Elvis can indeed be found in Isaak’s DNA.

Isaak may be the face of the band but he certainly surrounds himself with some very capable musicians. Piano player Scott Plunkett did wonders with a complexly repetitive  “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and  a melodic “You Don’t Cry Like I Do.” Guitarist Hershel Yatovitz plays great lead and compliments Isaak’s rhythm guitar work. Bassist Rowland Salley sang his song “Killing the Blues” that Alison Krause and Robert Plant made famous.

Nearly 75 minutes in Isaak announced the band had Monday off and would just keep playing. And he wasn’t lying. Isaak performed a duet with brother, Nick, who was the opening act, on “Don’t be Angry,” and the band played for the first time live, the original “Lovely Loretta.”  Isaak even sang two songs with his brother when Nick was in the middle of his set. Isaak encored with originals “Blue Hotel,” “Big Wide Wonderful World” and “Western Stars.”

What, no “Graduation Day”? OK, beggars can’t be choosers.

Chris Isaak Portland Setlist (Oregon Zoo):

  1. The Best I Ever Had
  2. Speak of the Devil
  3. Two Hearts
  4. We’ve Got Tomorrow
  5. I Want Your Love
  6. San Francisco Days
  7. You Don’t Cry Like I Do
  8. Cheater’s Town
  9. Somebody’s Crying
  10. Wicked Game
  11. Go Walking Down There
  12. One Day in Your Life
  13. Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing
  14. Only the Lonely (Roy Orbison cover)
  15. Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
  16. Can’t Help Falling in Love (Elvis Presley cover)
  17. It’s Now or Never (Elvis Presley cover)
  18. Oh, Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison cover)
  19. I Wonder
  20. ?
  21. Don’t be Angry (Duet with Nick Isaak)
  22. Killing the Blues (Sung by Rowland Salley)
  23. Lovely Loretta
  24. Live it Up
  25. I’ll Go Crazy (James Brown cover)
  26. Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis cover)
  27. Blue Hotel
  28. Big Wide Wonderful World
  29. Western Stars

Written By: AndrewT