The boomers were out in force last week at Proctors. Hardly an empty seat could be seen as the Wilson sisters and the rest of the current six-piece edition of Heart took the Mainstage to thunderous applause. There were a few under-30 types in the audience, but only a very few. Judging by the thickness of the glasses and plentiful grey hair, most of us assembled were fans since the ’70s when Ann and Nancy Wilson made mainstream hard rock a domain open for women artists, too.
They kicked things off in fine form with the title track of their 1980 album; “Bebe le Strange” is a curious but pleasingly sharp blues that’s aged well. They followed this with the title track from their new album. “Fanatic,” like the other new songs they performed, was intensely focused, sledgehammer hard, Black Sabbath sludgy and, sadly, not particularly interesting. (But they did play only three new ones.)
Heart went through a few distinct phases over the decades as they drifted from post-hippie folk to hard rock to their chart-topping glory years of the late 1980s, and each era was given its due.
Ann Wilson has a tremendous voice, and her abrupt shifts from seductive croon to banshee wail are at the heart of their sound. But when she sings harmony with her sister, they create this spooky, otherworldly sound which was on fine display in “Heartless” and “Love Alive.” The latter still has that songs-from-the-wood, half Jethro Tull, half Zeppelin vibe, and was one of the show’s best moments. (If they’d played “Straight On,” the trio of witchy tunes would have been complete.) The hippie influences were also on full display in the sweet-sounding “Dreamboat Annie” and “Dog and Butterfly,” while their sharp feminist jab “Even It Up” hit hard.
The 1980s were represented by Nancy Wilson’s lead-vocal hit “These Dreams,” and two of Ann’s power-ballad showcases. “What About Love” was fine, but she really brought the house down on “Alone,” which earned a standing ovation.
Though she has to pick her moments carefully, she still has perfect pitch and can hit those high notes. This was on full display in the banshee numbers, “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda.”
For an encore—and, yes, they earned an encore from the enthusiastic crowd—they did their breakthrough hit “Magic Man,” and their ever-showy cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”
Because, in the end, Heart are still more rock & roll than middle of the road.