With over 35 million records sold worldwide, Heart represent a remarkable musical phenomenon and a genuine force in hard rock. Built around the Wilson sisters (Ann and Nancy), the band have built an enviable fan-base and become a cornerstone of the hard rock scene, amazingly scoring top-ten albums on the billboard charts in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2010s. In short, Heart are a hugely influential band and this DVD/Blu ray stands as a testament to their legacy and a gift to their faithful fans who will no doubt flock to see tracks from 2012’s ‘Fanatic’ performed live alongside a choice selection of classics from across the band’s lengthy history. Clearly this is a set for those who are already familiar with Heart and yet it’s not just for those who have followed the band across the years, this beautifully shot and well-paced set will undoubtedly set the pulse racing in anyone with a passion for hard rock.
So, what to expect from ‘Fanatic, live from Caesar’s Colosseum’? The album delivers fourteen tracks, performed in front of an ecstatic crowd at the titular venue, and the band, clearly buoyed by their recent Hall of Fame induction give their all on classics such as ‘Barracuda’ and ‘crazy on you’, as well as a number of cuts from the latest record. Visually the show is a feast with the band having put a good deal into the stage show, with huge screens flickering away in the background throughout and, more pleasingly, the band themselves clearly having the time of their lives with guitarist Nancy never missing an opportunity to leap in the air whilst churning out huge, grinding power chords. Meanwhile the DVD offers up both Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1 options although, sadly, no DTS. Nonetheless, the sound is crunchy and powerful, offering the sub plenty of work whilst maintaining that all important clarity of Ann’s voice, still a thing of wonder after all these years.
A band who understand the value of hitting the ground running, Heart open with the powerful title track of recent album ‘fanatic’- a song which neatly displays the band’s penchant for combining a powerful pop hook with the grit of a hard rock guitar sound. Drawing together Heart’s many strengths in one song, ‘fanatic’ offers up vocal harmonies, a gutsy vocal from Ann and plenty of dizzy fretwork from the band which even encourages Ann to head bang unselfconsciously at the front of the stage, a testament to the fact that even several decades into an impressive career, heart of lost none of the passion that has made them so beloved a band over the years. The show continues with the funky ‘heartless.’ A song that neatly wrong-foots the listener with a teary intro that suddenly shifts gear, it has the sort of chorus you can imagine the whole audience singing back to the band with ease, whilst both Ann and Nancy put heart and soul into their vocal and guitar performances respectively. The slow, bluesy ‘what about love’ gives Whitesnake a run for their money in the rock ballad stakes and even gets augmented by a live string section, only adding to the song’s gloriously over-the-top poignancy. This being Heart, of course, it doesn’t take long for the riffs to return and new song ‘mashallah!’ proves to be a highlight of the set, Heart clearly having taken a leaf out of Europe’s book, coming back with a harder edge than ever at a time when you’d expect them to be softening. Even better is the gritty blues of ‘even it up’ which cruises on the back of the sort of riff that instantly makes you think of smoky bars, cold beers and dubious individuals lounging by the pool table. It is inspiring to see a band with so much history playing as if they’re just starting out, and Ann maintains her powerful stage presence, eliciting screams from the audience as she moves around the stage with pose and grace.
Time and again Heart take the opportunity to remind their audience of just why they’ve been so influential and just when you think it couldn’t get better they bust out the thrillingly heavy ’59 crunch’ a song that opens in a welter of harmonics and taut-edged riffs which showcase exactly from where Veruca Salt borrowed their moves on ‘eight arms to hold you’. ‘Straight on’ is a funky work out that slinks into view over guitars that recall Earl Slick’s wonderful work with Bowie whilst ‘dog and butterfly’ sees Ann grab a guitar for a track that sounds like a head on collision between Enya, Neil Young and Meat Loaf. It’s whimsical and yet strangely effective and it provides a much needed breather before the subtle beauty of the Nancy-led ‘walking good’, a track which sees both the return of the string section and Ann take up the flute. Emotive and beautifully performed it underscores exactly why Alice in Chains were so keen to get Ann to guest on ‘Sap’ an album that Heart’s work clearly had a hand in influencing. Heading into the eighties – the band playing songs from every era over the set – ‘These dreams’ is a song for the love birds with its rich keyboard textures and it dovetails neatly into the similarly emotional ‘alone’, a song that gives Ann plenty of opportunity to exercise her vocal range.
Having slowed things down somewhat over the previous few tracks, Heart blast back into full-blooded action with new track ‘dear old America’ before Nancy delivers an impressive acoustic work out to an audience that struggles to contain its delight. The band close out with two tracks which surely must be familiar to anyone who has followed rock music over the last few decades – ‘crazy on you’ and ‘barracuda’. ‘Crazy on you’ segues directly out of Nancy’s solo spot and sounds as fresh now as it ever did, whilst ‘Barracuda’ remains a hard rock gem that would stands as the jewel in Heart’s already impressive crown. Not quite done, the DVD also contains a bonus section which offers up the extra track ‘magic man’ (a personal favourite and it’s a shame it didn’t make the final concert cut) which is played with gusto.
With great sound and a set list which, above all else, demonstrates that Heart’s glory days are far from behind them, ‘fanatic live from Caesar’s colosseum’ showcases Heart’s prowess on the stage whilst the biggest surprise lies in the fact that the new cuts, far from being overshadowed by the classics, not only hold their own but suggest that Heart are set to go on for another decade at least. Best of all is the opportunity to see a band who continue to push themselves when they would be entirely forgiven for resting on their not insignificant laurels. Ann is a revelation, a vocalist who delivers her lyrics with unstinting power and who, every so often, charmingly lets the music get the better of her, letting rip with a bout of head banging here, an irrepressible grin there whilst the band are tight enough to nail every one of the songs, yet enthused enough to allow an air of spontaneity to enter into the proceedings. If you love classic hard rock and have yet to check out Heart, ‘Fanatic…’ showcases a classic band demonstrating just how much they belong in the present. Wonderful.