LEWISTON – With an unmistakable opening riff that instantly set the crowd off into jubilant yells, and a big happy cloud of powerful adoration that hung in the summertime air, Heart began their sold-out Tuesday in the Park Artpark concert with their mid-’70s smash “Magic Man.” A classic rock staple, the song has aged well, as have its collaborator sisters, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson.
The Wilsons, and the rest of Heart, pounded on. The 90-minute set featured not only a string of their beloved hits, but some surprising covers by fellow rock stars. Although the band was not introduced during the set, the four of them got cheers during intermittent solos.
Ann, one of the most distinctive rock ’n’ roll voices to ever front a band, carried the show – she swings easily from pianissimo pangs to forte bursts, both hard rocking and operatic. Nancy, guitarist and vocalist, is masterful acoustically and electrically, clearly enjoying every moment performing. This is Heart’s hallmark: transcendence of musical genres, gender and boundaries of influences.
Looking elegant in dress-and-tights combos, Ann was in a kimono-inspired black and red short dress while Nancy wore gray and red. The band was far more casual. The audience was a diverse assembly: gangs of ladies on girls’ night outings, bikers in appropriate regalia, and couples of various ages. The crowd vibe was revelatory.
“Good evening, welcome,” Ann said after their fourth song, “What About Love,” her first words of inter-song banter. “We’re going to do ‘em all tonight!” The song, one of their mid-’80s hits, is a cover by fellow Canadians Toronto and had the crowd screaming along to every word, especially its chorus. This reviewer, overtaken, crossed over into fandom, singing shoulder-to-shoulder with an all-black-clad biker. Lighters were out at song’s end. And there was much more to come in the set.
Heart dipped into more folksy “Dreamboat Annie” before continuing along to more rollicking, crowd-pleasing songs. “Even It Up” and “Straight On” left the more sedate numbers in the dust.
Nancy Wilson took the mic at song’s end and said “Hello, hello party people! You are the happiest people we’ve seen all summer.” That was met with a thunderous cheer that roiled from the top of the amphitheater lawn seats to the lucky mini-mob in front of the stage.
The band has been covering McCartney and Wings’ “Let Me Roll It” on this tour; it fits into their show seamlessly with its emotive guitar work and love-drenched lyrics. It was sung by Nancy, her voice surprisingly child-like; Ann sang backup. Nancy would again take lead vocals on “These Dreams,” “another song about love. The name of the band is Heart after all,” she said. Their premier hit, “Crazy On You,” ended the set perfectly.
Heart’s curious encore was a trio of songs by a band that they adore covering regularly, Led Zeppelin. It was a tribute to the era when both bands got rolling (the late ‘60s/early ‘70s). In their capable hands and voices, Heart illustrated what makes them great: ageless ferocity and effortless talent.
Opening for Heart was vocalist Brynn Marie, a Pittsburgh native living in Nashville. She performed a set largely of originals and peppered with some well-chosen covers, including Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved.” Marie played with an acoustic guitarist who did double-duty as backup vocalist. Her best original tune, “Daredevil,” featured the clever lyrics “I dare the devil in you.”