Concert review: Heart continues late-career surge at Stage AE

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It was one of those rare summer days where it stormed and spit rain for hours, to the point where it looked like Stage AE's "rain or shine" policy might be put to the water test.

Then, just after Heart went on, around 9:15 p.m., it fizzled out.

"I think we scared it away," Nancy Wilson said, "with our ROCK."

The beloved band led by the Wilson sisters Ann and Nancy did create quite a high pressure system of sound at Stage AE Thursday night before a soaked crowd.

Heart, which only produced one album in the '90s and one in the '00s, is on a late-career surge, about to drop its second album of the '10s, "Fanatic." Heart boldly made it a third of the set, starting with the heavy title track that blew in like vintage Zeppelin. Nancy and lead guitarist Craig Bartok attacked the blues riff fiercely while Ann raged over top with what was (and remains) one of rock's premier female voices.

"Magic Man" came early, the second song, and it was remarkably true to the 36-year-old album version. Ann's working in the same high register and soared up to every note, while Bartok navigated the thrilling solo almost perfectly. Even the synths sounded just right, as they did all night in the hands of Debbie Shair, who really shined on "Dog and Butterfly," making it sound like a delicate string section.

Heart spiced the middle of the set with two more hard rockers from the new album, "Mashallah" and "Dear Old America" -- a soldier's story written from the point of view of their military father) -- and the tamer acoustic song "Walkin' Good," with Ann adding flute (the album version is a duet with Sarah McLachlan).

It all sounded like the same Heart people fell in love with decades ago.

Heart kept the energy level up with "Heartless" -- she even got that high note at the end of "Ya keep on sinnin' in the name of a-rock and ROLL" -- "Straight On" and "Even it Up." They repped the '80s ballad era with "These Dreams" (the verses sung sweetly by Nancy) and "Alone," one of the tougher vocal tests for Ann. She passed that one too.

She still had plenty left to let it rip on killer versions of "Barracuda" and "Crazy on You" (complete with Nancy's lovely acoustic intro) sandwiched around a new driving rocker called "59 Crunch."

The only complaint a Heart fan could have with the show, besides being wet, is that the band wrapped up 15 songs in about 80 minutes without venturing into deep cuts or punctuating the set with a wild Who or Zeppelin cover at the end. If that's the price to pay to keep Ann's voice in peak form, so be it.


Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.


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