Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 10, 2017)
If you look at the long list of musical artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over the last 30 years, you’ll find many females. However, you’ll not locate many female rockers, and you’ll discover even fewer female-fronted rock bands.
By my count, the Rock Hall includes three bands led by women, and Heart became the most recent inductee in this category when they got into the Hall in 2013. For a look at their work, we go to Alive in Seattle, a concert program shot in 2002 at the Paramount Theater,
The show’s 19 songs span the band’s career, though with an emphasis on their 1970s heyday. From 1975’s Dreamboat Annie, we find the title song, “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man”, while 1977’s Little Queen brings us “Barracuda” and “Love Alive”. 1978’s Dog & Butterfly presents the title song, “Straight On” and “Mistral Wind”.
1985’s “comeback album” Heart boasts “These Dreams”, and “Alone” stems from 1987’s follow-up Bad Animals. 1990’s Brigade provides “Wild Child”.
Alive features four songs that were new circa 2002: “Sister Wild Rose”, “Heaven”, “Two Faces of Eve” and “Break the Rock”. We also find covers of Elton John’s “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters”, the Sonics’ “The Witch”, and Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” and “Black Dog”.
That seems like a good array of songs, and Alive presents the material in a satisfying enough manner. Let’s face it: Heart were always a competent “meat and potatoes” rock band, one that gave us a decent catalog of satisfying rockers but not one who could rise above their origins. They nodded toward influences like Led Zeppelin early and often, and those traits never really changed.
Which is fine, as one can’t expect every band to blaze trails. At their peak, they gave us energetic rock, and that’s where they stayed for their 40-year career.
Even without a lot of creative inspiration, Heart offered a pretty solid collection of songs, and Alive represents them well enough. I’ve heard Ann Wilson’s voice has started to falter in recent years, but as of 2002, she retained plenty of power and range, so her vocals add to the experience.
Other than Ann and her vocalist/guitarist sister Nancy, you’ll find no one from Heart’s 1970s heyday – heck, the band circa 2002 didn’t even include anyone from their 1980s revival. These guys may be hired guns, but they perform the music well enough – I can’t claim they bring any magic to the material, but they give it adequate punch.
Director Dave Diomedi reproduces the concert with reasonable restraint. In a pleasing choice, Diomedi largely avoids crowd shots – the bane of concert films – and he also keeps editing subdued. We get a good view of the band without gimmicks or distractions, factors that make this a satisfying representation of the concert.
And it’s a perfectly decent show. Heart: Alive in Seattle never manages to threaten greatness, but it delivers a pretty good take on a pretty good band.