Seattle-based sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have led the hard-rock band Heart together since 1973, but a 2016 family rift kept the band on indefinite hiatus for a couple years.
The sisters resolved their differences, however, and triumphantly returned to the road this year for the Love Alive Tour. Since the tour is named after one of the best tracks from 1977’s Little Queen, here’s a playlist featuring “Love Alive” and 19 other deep cuts to check out ahead of the band’s show at Xcel Energy Center on October 13.
Guitarist Roger Fisher and bassist Steve Fossen formed the band that would become Heart in late ’60s Seattle. The group was initially called the Army, a somewhat ironic name since, after being rechristened Heart, they relocated to Vancouver for a few years so some members could avoid the Vietnam draft. But the Wilson sisters became the public face of the group soon after joining Heart, appearing together on the cover of their platinum 1975 debut Dreamboat Annie for Canadian label Mushroom Records.
Heart’s initial success with Mushroom was short-lived. The label decided to promote Dreamboat Annie with advertisements that implied an incestuous relationship between Ann and Nancy Wilson, without the sisters’ knowledge. Their anger over the publicity stunt prompted them to change labels and inspired the fury of Heart’s signature song, “Barracuda.”
Magazine is the black sheep of Heart’s classic ’70s run, an album Mushroom initially cobbled together from unfinished recordings in 1977, and then finished by the band and re-released in 1978 to resolve Heart’s contract obligations. Though a subpar album born out of contentious circumstances, Magazine does contain one of the band’s heaviest songs, “Devil Delight,” and the label fight ultimately resulted in Heart releasing three platinum albums in the space of two years.
Multiple generations of hard-rock bands have proudly worn Led Zeppelin’s influence on their sleeves. But Heart are perhaps Zep’s greatest disciples, both for their songwriting and because Ann Wilson’s elegant wail is more distinctive than the Robert Plant imitations offered by the frontmen of Whitesnake and Greta Van Fleet. Recent Heart setlists have featured a cover of “Stairway to Heaven” as well as Heart’s own best attempt at a “Stairway”-style slow burning epic, “Mistral Wind” from 1978’s Dog & Butterfly. Heart also followed in the footsteps of Jethro Tull with the unlikely fusion of heavy guitar rock with Ann Wilson’s flute solos on tracks like “Sing Child.”
Fisher and Fossen left Heart in the early ’80s, returning only once in 2013 to perform at Heart’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band’s sales took a downturn in the ’80s, but like contemporaries such as Aerosmith and Cheap Trick, Heart enjoyed a commercial rebound in the second half of the decade by recording material by outside songwriters for the first time. Even as Heart returned to the charts with a series of power ballads, however, they stayed true to their hard-rock roots on deep cuts like the title track to 1987’s Bad Animals. That song also became the namesake for Bad Animals Studio, the Seattle recording facility the Wilson sisters ran in the ’90s that became a grunge hotbed where Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains recorded some of their most famous albums.
Heart have continued recording new albums over the last two decades. Their most recent studio effort, 2016’s Beautiful Broken, is a unique mix of new and old, featuring re-recordings of overlooked songs from the early ’80s like “Down On Me” and “City’s Burning.” And they continued to record ballads from outside writers, including “Two,” penned by contemporary R&B star Ne-Yo.
With: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Lucie Silvas
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13
Tickets: $66.50; more info here