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Another Way to Heaven: Heart Does Zeppelin

August 4, 2013

I’ll never see Led Zeppelin in concert.  Seeing the mighty Zep might have been an option during my earliest concert-going days as they had just come out with the album In Through the Out Door — which I picked up the week of release with its nifty brown paper bag hiding the actual cover that showed one of multiple perspectives on the same bar scene depending on which one you got — and a North American tour was planned.  The September 1980 death of drummer extraordinaire John Bonham and resulting end of Led Zeppelin as a going concern shattered possibilities for me however.  I was left with my numerous viewings of the concert film The Song Remains the Same during late-70s midnight showings as my “certificate of participation,” doomed never to take home the blue ribbon.

Not to imply that The Song Remains the Same was a booby prize.  It remains my all-time favorite concert film to this day and, given that back then concert films were experienced up on the big screen channeled through monstrous theater sound systems, it is unlikely to be unseated.  I saw it enough times to eventually be comfortable closing my eyes and allowing myself to just float along during long Jimmy Page guitar solos without fear of missing something in the visuals.  I considered it a reasonable second-best to the real thing.

Little did I know that the true next-best alternative to an actual Zeppelin show would offer itself up to me willingly on a steamy 25th of June in 2013 at the sadly-named Jiffy Lube Live concert venue in tree-lined Bristow, Virginia.  And equally surprising, it was not opening band Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience that claimed the honor, although it was a blast to see Jason mimic his beloved father’s skins work while surrounded by a group of highly talented sound-alike musicians, to include a spot-on, Plant-channeling vocalist.  No, the real “alternative” Led Zeppelin appeared in the form of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s Heart, specifically during their six-song, all-Zep encore, which also saw Jason Bonham return to the stage to repeatedly pound Thor’s hammer into our skulls via genetically-engraved Bonzo-style drumming.

These two ladies do Zeppelin better than anyone, and in no way do they come across as a simple tribute.  They honestly own these songs.  Their Zeppelin soul-stealing is hard-earned and is not a Johnny-come-lately undertaking.  They have been daring to cover the mighty Zep dating back to the very days when the four behemoths of hard rock were still personally striding across the landscape.  For my part, I had seen Heart do Rock and Roll live back in 1987, and had heard their version of Black Dog on one of their live albums.  I had also seen the YouTube video of their December 2012 Stairway to Heaven performance at the Kennedy Center Honors that moved Robert Plant himself to the brink of tears (see below).  Even so, I still found myself unprepared for Ann and Nancy’s Led-laden brilliance.

The Heart sisters first offered up a chilling duet on The Battle of Evermore before bringing on their backing band made up of a mix of their own and Jason Bonham’s players to literally take possession of The Song Remains the Same, The Rain Song, The Ocean, and Kashmir.

They ended the evening’s splendor with their perfect – PERFECT! – take on Stairway to HeavenStairway to Heaven in its original version is an amazing, universe-expanding song that fully deserves it legendary status.  It may be the fact of its having become metastasized into every living rocker’s DNA however that makes the idea of a worthy cover so daunting and exhilarating at the same time.  Ann Wilson kills Stairway to Heaven, and I mean “kills” in the most magnificent and exalted sense.  She kills it so profoundly that the act conjures coincident resurrection; the mythological phoenix dies and ascends simultaneously!  I have no shame in admitting that a few tears of joy streaked my face as the May queen cleaned and this songbird sang.

Here’s the video of Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart performing Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center Honors on December 26, 2012, in case you require convincing:

What made my “Zeppelin” experience even more epic was the fact that Heart is an awesome band in its own right, with excellent songs and huge talent that others would sell their souls to attain.  Having seen them live twice now – in 1987 and 2013 – I am a bigger fan than ever.  From Nancy’s epic acoustic guitar intro and playing on Crazy on You to the heft of the riffs and Ann’s vocals in Barracuda and Heartless, these women can rock.  I should probably post again in the future and give them their well-deserved, self-composed due.  In the meantime, a few reminders follow:

Crazy on You:

Barracuda:

Heartless:

From → Music

6 Comments
  1. I would have liked to see this show too! Sounds epic.

  2. I wouldn’t say any bands are uncoverable – but if you’re going to cover Zep, you’d better do it right. Glad to hear they definitely did!

  3. Sounds like a great show. I can believe the Heart sisters could do justice to the Zep tunes.

  4. b.a. permalink

    Love your posts.

  5. Just can’t beat ‘Battle of Evermore’, or ‘Barracuda’, come to that!

  6. I never got to see the mighty Zepp live either, sadly. Like you, I originally saw “The Song…” at a movie theater, and I’ve pretty much got the whole thing memorized too.

    I did a post on Heart titled “Okay, Heart, I Now Forgive You for the Eighties” or something like that. I LOVED their first three albums, but I didn’t care for their eighties stuff too much. But I now forgive them for that (lol) because of they way they have embraced Zepp and are performing their music live. Also, they have returned to their roots in recent years and sound much more like early-era Heart.

    By the way, I linked that same Kennedy Center clip in my post, and I’ve watched it a bazillion times. 😉

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