Show Review: Heart at Mystic Lake

by Sally Hedberg

Nostalgia for the golden age of live rock’n’roll performance is something that I’ve learned to cope with. No matter how desperately I haunt YouTube to relive incendiary Zeppelin sets from the ’70s, or how tirelessly I attempt to listen to it all, the truth remains: I wasn’t there (lets get real, I was born in ’89).  Yet, last Saturday night at Mystic Lake Casino, the universe offered slight redemption to a girl whose play count of Heart’s “Crazy on You” is in the hundreds.

In the heyday of rock, sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson surfaced with their band Heart, proving that arena rock stardom was not the exclusive province of men. Ann’s super powered vocals were compared to Robert Plant, and Nancy’s skill on the guitar was bewitching. They sold millions of records and became famous, cementing their names in rock history and the machine gun bass line of “Barracuda” into our brains.  More than thirty years later, incredibly, their performance dynamic hasn’t changed.

“We’re here to have a party,” Ann Wilson asserted to the audience, provoking waves of applause and scattered fist pumping from hoards of middle-aged Heart fanatics. A party it was indeed, though it was also a journey through the decades of their music.

Oddly, they opened with material from their 2010 release, “Red Velvet Car.” Now, it’s cool that a band like Heart is committed to pumping out fresh material at grandparent age, but when it comes to a crowd that’s clinging onto mere shreds of their post-millennium relevance, they just don’t care. They’ve dropped cash to hear the hits, end of story.

With that moment out their systems, the sisters then carried the set to the place it needed most to go: The ’70s . Starting with their ballady hit, “Dog and Butterfly,” Heart reminded those in attendance why we fell so fast-and-hard in love with them in the first place. Despite being 56 (Nancy) and 60 (Ann), their energy and vocals were spot-on and loaded with verve. They sisters have aged and their delivery is no longer a product of psychedelic-induced haze, but it doesn’t matter. They manage to retain the vitality of their prime without having to jump off of their amps. Though, in a humorous, accepting gesture, Ann Wilson chugged a bottle (of water, Mystic Lake is a dry casino) and hurled it with rock star bravado onto the stage.

Moving into the ’80s with tracks like “These Dreams” and “Alone,” Ann Wilson unveiled the enduring scope of her insane vocal range. The woman has truly mastered the melodic rock ‘n’ roll scream.

While the entirety of Heart’s rock down memory lane was astounding, the triple threat finale of “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda” served as the unrivaled highpoint of the show. The band responded to the audience’s enthusiasm, channeling extra energy into the execution. Nancy’s elaborate guitar intro to “Crazy On You” was remarkable to witness up close. Her physical relationship to her instrument channeled Hendrix’s ’67 performance of “Wild Thing” in Monterey. Okay, maybe Nancy’s performance was a bit tamer, but the same sexual element was present. After overwhelming applause, the band reemerged for a two-song encore. They were happy at having pleased a showroom full of nostalgic devotees. The gals of Heart play music because that’s what they love to do; it clearly doesn’t matter to them that they happen to be doing it on the casino circuit.

 It must be acknowledged that Mystic Lake is a strange venue and it’s the only factor that created conflict in my live Heart experience. While Heart may have accepted their role as an outdated band in 2010, I confess that I have not. I yearned for the authentic ’70s Heart shows that my dad so fondly recollects. Obviously, this was impossible to attain in a venue that forced me to remain sober, seated and surrounded by old people. I’m in no way complaining because the show was unbelievable. It was just a weird time and place to see a band whose memory I’ve so long idolized. Regardless, I’m thrilled that Heart is still beating and their performance was magic, man.