Dreamboat Annie Live is the first release from Shout! Factory’s new “Legendary Albums Live” series, which features famous bands performing their quintessential albums live, in sequence, and in their entirety. The artists will also perform songs by the musicians they were listening to at the time for inspiration and give exclusive interviews. So says the distributor's website.
If this excellent new Heart DVD is any indication of things to come, then this is going to be one hell of a new concert series. I get giddy just thinking about all of the bands and albums I'd love to see given this same treatment. How about Rush doing 2112, AC/DC doing Back In Black, Pearl Jam doing Ten, The Eagles doing Hotel California – I could go on for hours.
I was somewhat let down by Heart's last concert DVD, 2003's Alive In Seattle. The sterile setting looked more like a Vegas lounge act than a rock concert and the performances were uninspired. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this new DVD. The Wilson sisters were four years older now, each in their mid-50s, and they would be relying on a single album to sustain most of the show. Were the sisters still that good? Was the album ever really that good? I say hell yes to both!
The album in question here is Heart's 1976 debut, Dreamboat Annie. Yet another band I grew up on has passed the 30-year mark. Wow. Although Dreamboat Annie may have been the quintessential album choice for this series – I might have preferred Little Queen though – this was certainly not the quintessential Heart lineup performing it. As with the Alive In Seattle performance, Heart has long been reduced to just Ann and Nancy Wilson and whoever their current backup band is at the time.
The Wilson sisters have always been the face and lifeblood of Heart; so as long as they are both still around, they will always have a legitimate claim to the name in my book. It is a shame, considering that all of the original band members are still around, that they could not have all come together for this 30th anniversary of their celebrated debut.
I wasn't expecting a full-on band reunion, but a few guest performances by some of the original band members would have been nice. The wounds must still run a little too deep between the Fisher brothers and the Wilson sisters, who shared much more than just a bunch of songs back in the day.
Dreamboat Annie Live was recorded on April 17, 2007, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. The DVD opens with a contemporary interview of Ann and Nancy Wilson, along with Mike Flicker, the producer of the original Dreamboat Annie album, where they discuss the early days of the band and the making of the first few Heart albums.
The show begins with Heart's debut single, and still a staple of classic rock radio, "Magic Man." The stage and light show look great and the sound is thunderous. Ann and Nancy are backed by a five-piece band and three additional backing vocalists. The Stockholm Strings sextet joins in by the fourth song, "Soul Of The Sea," and lends support to every other song that follows.
Many of these songs, like "White Lightning & Wine" have never been performed live before, so the band conducted many rehearsals to get things just right. And right they did! Guitarist Craig Bartock does a fantastic job recreating all of the subtleties of Roger Fisher's original work, but also gives the songs a more muscular live feel. Ann Wilson again proves to be the greatest female hard rock vocalist in the business. Her voice is as powerful and emotive as ever, and sounds even ballsier now with the slight hint of rasp that comes through at times.
Each of the performances offered pretty straightforward, although highly spirited, renditions of the songs, until you get to "Sing Child," which was completely rearranged with some help from the string section. The familiar crunchy guitar chords are replaced by the violins, violas, and cellos of the Stockholm Strings and it sounded fantastic. After Ann fires off her excellent flute solo, Nancy even one ups her with a killer harmonica solo.
"Dreamboat Annie (Reprise)" caps off a wonderfully fresh and inspired performance of one of the best debut rock albums of the '70s. Ah, but the best is yet to come. After a brief interlude featuring more interview footage with Ann and Nancy, the band hits the stage running with their Zeppelin-esque epic "Mistral Wind," from the Dog & Butterfly album. It was the perfect precursor for what would soon follow.
Heart's first tribute song of the night was Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky," which I though was a rather odd choice for the band. I could think of many other Floyd songs that are better suited for the band's style, but they really made this one their own and hit it out of the park. You know you are going to get a Zeppelin cover or two at every Heart show, and this night they chose the old standby, "Black Dog," and one I was not expecting, "Misty Mountain Hop."
I have often jokingly said that Heart does Zeppelin better than Zeppelin themselves, but Robert, Jimmy, John Paul, and Jason certainly laid that nonsense to rest with their incredible reunion concert this year. Heart is still the next best thing though, and their performance of these two Led Zeppelin IV classics were tremendous. Ann can still wail like Robert Plant's twin sister, and Nancy still struts around like she was Jimmy Page at the Garden in '73.
The real highlight of the show was saved for last though, when the band boldly took on the Who's epic "Love, Reign O’er Me." From the opening piano and synthesizer riffs, to Ann completely nailing Roger Daltry's once mighty vocals, especially those epic LOOOOOVE screams of the chorus, I had chills running up my spine. Ann's performance was amazing, especially when you consider that she will turn 60 before the decade is out.
The DVD production quality was excellent. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio tracks are offered and they both sounded superb. The surround mix, in particular, provided a deep low end and expansive soundstage that gave the feeling of being in the middle of the theater. The widescreen picture appeared consistently sharp and detailed, and the colors looked amazing.
The only extras features were a very short "Heart Mongers Speak!" featurette, that consisted of a few interview snippets with some long time Heart fans, as well as a 53-image photo gallery.
Although the song performances barely fill 70-minutes after you exclude the interview segments – I could have used a few more Heart classics like "Barracuda" and "Love Alive" mixed in with all the encore cover songs – the purpose of the DVD was well served. Dreamboat Annie has never sounded better. Don't miss it.
02. Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child)
03. Crazy on You
04. Soul of the Sea
05. Dreamboat Annie
06. White Lightning & Wine
07. (Love Me Like Music) I’ll Be Your Song
08. Sing Child
09. How Deep It Goes
10. Dreamboat Annie (Reprise)
11. Mistral Wind
12. Goodbye Blue Sky
13. Black Dog
14. Misty Mountain Hop
15. Love, Reign O’er Me