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Music DVD Review: Heart – Night at Sky Church

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If the March 2010 Heart concert, Night at Sky Church now available on DVD, is any indication the seventies rocking sisters may be showing their age, but they can still rock with the best of them. Ann Wilson’s voice can be as thrilling as it ever was, and Nancy is equally adept playing the band’s hard rock standards as well as its softer departures. The eighty eight minute concert features a nice mix of the group’s classic hits and new songs from their 2010 album, Red Velvet Car, along with a guest appearance by blue grass diva Alison Krauss. Besides the Wilson sisters, the band includes Craig Bartock on guitar, Kristian Attard on bass, Debbie Shair, keyboards, and Ben Smith on drums.

They open the set with a hard driving “Baracuda” followed by “Never” and close with a crowd pleasing trio of their other major hits: “What About Love,” “Alone,” and “Crazy On You.” They save “Magic Man” for the last of two encores. The other encore is “Sand,” a quiet duet for Ann and Nancy which was written back in the ’90’s for the sister’s acoustic group, the Lovemongers and is included on the new album. Earlier they had played four other pieces from that new CD, the title song, “Red Velvet Car,” “WTF,” “Hey You,” and “Safronia’s Mark.” Alison Krauss and Ben Mink joined with the band on the fiddle on the last of these. Krauss comes on to sing Heart’s “These Dreams” and then they back her up in a high powered rendition of her own “Your Long Journey.” “Straight On” and “Mistral Wind” from the Dog and Butterfly album and “Love Alive” complete the concert. There are two bonus songs: “Back to Avalon” and “Kick it Out.” Both seem to have been shot from the concert and I’m not clear about why they were separated. The first features a vocal by Nancy. The second is a rocker for Ann.

Highlights include “Mistral Wind” which begins with a discordant guitar solo introduction and a soft folksy vocal and builds to a hard rocking crescendo, and the ballad “Hey You” which features Nancy Wilson singing and playing the autoharp. Ann’s work on the classic hits is electric. It is impossible to single one or two out for praise. Each one is better than the other. She has a voice that thrills and the concert audience eats it up. It is clear why Heart was so popular back in the day; it is clear why they are so popular still. Krauss, as one would expect, does a beautiful job with her two songs.

There are those concert films that are very static. It is as though it were simply enough for a camera or two to be pointed at the band on the stage to capture the essence of the performance. Night at Sky Church is not one of those. The camera work here is in a word fantastic. There is constant movement, movement that echoes the excitement of the music and the excitement of the audience. The camera moves between long shots of the band to close ups of individual musicians. Camera angles change: they shoot from above, from below, from the side. They zoom in; they zoom out. There are split screens and super imposed shots. It is camera work that truly enhances the experience of the concert and the two men credited with the photographic direction, Champe Barton and Steve Gibby, deserve some love.

Publicity for the DVD release includes this from pop singer Katy Perry: “Ann and Nancy have always been and continue to be the best female rock vocalists I’ve ever heard live. They could sing the phone book, and I would still listen.” Perry is right. This concert is proof. Get out the Yellow Pages and let’s see what these hard rocking ladies can do.

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About Jack Goodstein