Concert Reviews

Heart Wailed With the Storm at Red Rocks

Last night, the forecast of "light rain" left out the bit about two full hours of torrential rain, mild flooding, and seriously limited visibility issues on the roads. Driving through these conditions to get to Red Rocks either inspired a bit of foolhardy bravado or the urge to turn back again and again, wondering if the show would even go on.

Apparently Cheap Trick opened the show, and its small audience probably took the brunt of the rain. For those delayed on arrival, this had some interesting side benefits. One, you could park closer than some poor bastards, who perhaps got to Red Rocks by the would-have-been start time, and not have to walk twice the distance in the full-on downpour. Two, at a certain point, when it remained an unconfirmed rumor that Joan Jett and Heart would even still perform, security loosened up at the gates. Three, if you ever wanted to know what the road to Red Rocks looked like when flooding waters washed the mud and rocks across the asphalt, there were hundreds of yards of examples.

To escape the wrath of God, Thor, Tlaloc or whatever deities you care to invoke, show-goers took shelter wherever they could, including women lined up inside the men's bathroom. Still, everyone seemed to have a sense of humor about it, and any self-consciousness went out the window.
There seemed to be no end in sight to the storm, but at 9:20 p.m., the rain subsided. At 9:35, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts hit the stage with “Bad Reputation.” The inclement weather and venue's curfew resulted in truncated set lists, but it didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits. Jett herself seemed to be delighted by the fact that we sang along to every single song, even lesser-known hits like "Light of Day" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You." She even treated the crowd to the classic Runaways song “Cherry Bomb.” The rest of the set featured Jett's big hits and covers: “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” “I Love Rock & Roll” and “Crimson and Clover.”
With just a touch of drizzle sprinkling the landscape, Heart somehow managed to take stage less than ten minutes after the Blackhearts departed. Singer Ann Wilson expressed defiance against the weather in the face of the power of rock and roll — though she later demurred at not wanting to tempt fate. But the rain was nearly over, and Heart's set list drew from across its entire career, from “Magic Man,” from 1976's Dreamboat Annie, and opener “Wild Child,” from 1990's Brigade, to the songs "Two" and "Beautiful Broken," from the 2016 record Beautiful Broken, which Wilson joked was perhaps about some people in the audience.

What struck listeners, however, was how Nancy Wilson, with no apparent ego at all, slipped in and out of her role as rhythm guitarist and shone brightly on acoustic-guitar introductions to “Crazy on You” and the band's encore cover of “Stairway to Heaven” as well as the masterful harmonics at the beginning of “Barracuda.”

Ann Wilson was a force of nature worthy of the weather of the evening. She really sold the ballads “What About Love” and “Alone” in a way that most of her male counterparts of the ’80s could never do with the same level of passion or conviction, while avoiding ersatz sentimentality. In their Sixties, the Wilson sisters seemed not only in full control of their powers as true hard-rock pioneers, but to be having a great time in doing so.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.