Alive In Seattle


Capitol, 2003

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


I have this little habit which I guess I’m never going to shake off.  You see, whenever I “discover” an artist, I immediately seek out any live albums and use that as my starting point.  If by chance said artist can’t cut it live, then I move on to someone else.  If, of course, the live stuff is great, it can turn out to be a very expensive process, because then I have to get my hands on each and every one of the artist’s albums.  So discovering Neil Young and Van Morrison some years ago just about sent me broke.

I remember being impressed enough after listening to Alive In Seattle to seek out Little Queen and Dog And Butterfly, but not too long after that it seems my interest waned and these three albums remain the only Heart CDs in my collection.  The reason for that I discovered after playing this disc again yesterday, and it was quite clear.  The early Heart were fabulous -- the latter-day AOR Heart, not so.

This two-disc set kicks off to a promising start with a rocking version of their debut single “Crazy On You.”  Current song (at the time) “Sister Wild Rose” comes next and is quickly followed up with an urgent cover of “The Witch.”  After a quick greeting from Ann, the girls lead the band through a faithful reading of “Straight On” played to an obviously affectionate crowd. 

I suppose the god-awful “These Dreams” (for which Nancy takes the lead) is such a fan favorite that the sisters may feel obligated to play it.  Or maybe they love it as much as the fans seem to, who knows.  It’s a truly horrible song, one which the writers (including Bernie Taupin) shopped around until they found takers in Heart, and which Stevie Nicks had the good sense to turn down. A definite flat spot.  “Mistral Wind” follows and is given an extended workout which sounds a little Zeppelin-esque (funny that).

The best part of this set is definitely when Ann and Nancy ditch the band and reel off a few acoustic gems.  Their harmonies are stunning and Nancy’s sweet tones are best experienced without the full band treatment.  “Alone” is one of the 1980’s greatest ballads and it sounds even better here mainly thanks to Ann’s stirring vocal performance.  “Dog And Butterfly” remains one of their finest moments ever as well.  Next up is a splendid cover of Elton John’s sublime “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” for which Nancy takes the lead and proves she cut it, too.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The last song on the first disc is a Led Zeppelin cover, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Heart catalogue.  The girls were heavily influenced by Page, Plant and Co.  It would become an obsession right down to Ann’s Plant-style vocal delivery on so many of their songs.  Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here as the girls tackle “The Battle Of Evermore” with gusto but fall well short of doing it any justice.  Kudos to Nancy, though, for pulling out the mandolin, I love ’em. The band is back to help out but there’s no saving this one.

Disc two gets off to a woeful start with the ridiculous “Heaven” which according to Ann was to appear on the “new” album.  I presume she’s referring to Jupiter’s Darling, however, it’s pleasing to see they must have had second thoughts ’cause it ain’t on it.  It’s a car crash of styles that find the band lost in some world beats and the horrible synth fills posing as all things including sitars and harps are atrocious to say the least.

“Magic Man” is here and while the band are tight and offer a note-perfect reading, it just sounds a little too clean (and has too much guitar wankery) for my liking.  I mean, I keep waiting for the guys to really let loose and shake it up but they never do.  All throughout the gig, there’s not one moment when they throw caution to the wind and really let it rip.  Once again, the girls’ harmonies are wonderful. 

“Two Faces Of Eve,” slated for the new album as well (funnily enough, this one didn’t make the final cut either), sounds a little like the vintage Heart of the mid-‘70s.  This is followed by the downright boring formulaic rock of “Love Alive”; even Ann sounds bored with this one, which is a shame because the original is an awesome song. 

The sheer stupidity of the new (nope, didn’t make it either) “Break The Rock” is unforgivable.  It’s sounds as if it was written for one of their dreadful ‘80s efforts and that’s not a good thing.  They are actually trying too hard now to rock out, go figure. 

A solid version of “Barracuda” FINALLY releases the tension and the band can actually kick it when pushed by the material.  The momentum is killed off, however, by the nightmare AOR of “Wild Child” from their worst studio album, 1990’s Brigade.  Of all the great stuff in their canon, they had to drag this one out and I’d love to know why.

Oh, lovely, more Zeppelin.  “Black Dog” has never been a favorite of mine and this here ain’t helping.  It truly sounds terrible; you’d think the girls would be more selective when paying homage to their heroes.  I could rattle off a rather lengthy list of Zeppelin tunes that would suit them wonderfully and the subpar band is really a ways up that well-known creek now. 

The girls close the set with the lovely (if only there was more of it) “Dreamboat Annie (Reprise).”  Those beautiful harmonies are timeless.  What started so well has quickly fallen away to reveal Heart’s shortcomings.  A live album should really be an affirmation of a band’s talents; therefore, this set falls well short of offering anything than a few nice moments amid a shitload of mediocrity. 

So in closing, I’m left with a rather vexing question in my mind.  Can Heart cut it “live”?  Acoustically I’d say hell yeah.  As an arena filling rock band?  Maybe not.  I can’t decide if it’s the lackluster band or the material chosen here, but it’s really not convincing and I’m past the point of caring.  Why the hell did I keep this thing?

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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