HUNTSVILLE, AL. - For about the first hour or so of its 90-minute concert Thursday night, Heart played, well, with a lot of heart.
Ann and Nancy Wilson, together for over 35 years after great success in the 1970s and '80s, brought along with them four other musicians Thursday night and entertained a small but enthusiastic older crowd of about 3,000 fans at the Von Braun Center Arena.
Edwin McCain gave a better than your average opener performance, playing for about 40 minutes and including such hits as "I'll Be" and "I Could Not Ask for More." He even talked about grabbing lunch at Tim's Cajun Kitchen.
Heart then took the stage, opening with a lesser known song from 1978's "Dog & Butterfly" album, "Cook With Fire," and kicked it up a little with "What About Love" and "Straight On for You." The gals may not be as young as they used to be - "We aren't as old as dirt, but we've been around a while," Nancy said - but they haven't lost a beat on the stage. Ann's voice is still as amazingly strong and powerful as it's always been and Nancy jumps around flailing her guitar like some 19-year-old.
Heart continued with "Dog & Butterfly," "These Dreams," the group's first No. 1 hit, "Alone," the second No. 1, and "Even It Up." The group then started in with the sometimes dreaded "stuff from our new album." In fairness to Heart, the gals haven't had a new studio album since 2004, so they played selections from "Red Velvet Car," due out Aug. 31, including "Hey You," "Red Velvet Car" and "WTF."
The songs seemed more mellow, more country/folk, similar to the sound the gals put out as the Lovemongers, their side band in the '90s when they took a break from Heart. They were okay, but probably not what most of the crowd came to hear.
However, this story - and concert - have a happy ending.
That's because the last 30 or minutes of the show were pure, hard drivin' Heart rock, bringing the crowd to its feet. First came "Magic Man," then Nancy did an extended guitar intro before the band ripped into "Crazy On You." After that came "Barracuda."
The band exited the stage for a few minutes, then came back and flexed its rock muscles during the encore. You'd never know Ann is 60 and Nancy 56, especially as they performed Led Zeppelin's classic "What Is and What Should Never Be" and The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" with all the fury that Robert Plant/Jimmy Page and Roger Daltry/Pete Townsend put into it way back when.
It was the kind of ending all rock fans love, one that leaves you buzzing as you're walking out the door.