DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Heart – Night At Sky Church (2011)

DVD concert release brings veteran rock band into high-tech renaissance.

Published on April 1, 2011

Heart – Night At Sky Church (2011)

Heart – Night At Sky Church (2011)

Performers: Ann Wilson – vocals, guitar, flute; Nancy Wilson – guitar, vocals, mandolin, blues harmonica, autoharp; Craig Bartock – guitar, vocals, banitar; Debbie Shair -  keyboards, vocals, accordion, percussion, bells; Kristian Attard – bass; Ben Smith – drums, percussion; with special guests Alison Krauss – vocals, fiddle; Ben Mink – fiddle, guitar

TrackList: Barracuda; Never; Straight On; Love Alive; Mistral Wind; WTF; Hey You; Red Velvet Car; These dreams; Safronia’s Mark; Your Long Journey; What About Love; Alone; Crazy On You; Encore: Sand; Magic Man
Studio: Sony Legacy 88697 76761 9 [Also available as Blu-ray]
Video: 16×9 color HD
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo

Extras: Back To Avalon; Kick It Out


 

Length: 88 minutes 

Rating:****  
  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
As the mid-seventies approached, popular music was meandering into disparate styles. Arena rock (The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin) was all that remained from the late sixties and early seventies. Disco, reggae, punk and ska were changing the fabric of contemporary musical culture. In the Northwest, a pair of talented sisters (Ann and Nancy Wilson) resurrected the thematic rock template. Alternating a hard edge, guitar-driven format with acoustic folk sensibilities, Heart arrived on the music scene. Their success was immediate, scoring hits with Dreamboat Annie and Little Queen. These albums yielded hit singles and promoted the Wilsons as big time rockers. Nancy proved to be a versatile instrumentalist, while Ann was the most powerful female voice in a decade.
 
Heart emerged from career decline in the mid eighties. The Wilsons also performed acoustic music as a duo. Eventually Heart released an album (Red Velvet Car) in 2010, establishing the renewed viability of the group.

Night At Sky Church is a lavish DVD performed at Experience Music Project Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. Heart is very comfortable in this “hometown” setting and the enthusiastic crowd brings energy to the performance. A brief collage of vintage film (the only non-concert footage) opens the DVD. Then the band explodes as Nancy Wilson leads with the chords to “Barracuda”. Ann Wilson belts out the lyrics with piercing vocals as the band rips through the song. Sister Ann is the most powerful female rock and roll singer since Janis Joplin. There is a crisp editing that underscores the pulsating beat of the music. “Never” keeps its power ballad sensibility with a saucy lead vocal. When Nancy (who contributes blues harp and acoustic guitar) sings background, the chemistry is palpable. While the band offers newer material (“WTF” “Red Velvet Car”), the earlier repertoire (“Straight On”, “Crazy On You, “Alone” and “What About Love”) appears to showcase the inherent power of this group.
 
Alison Krause is a welcome addition to the evening. She takes over Nancy Wilson’s lead vocal (who switches to mandolin) on “These Dreams”. Kraus invokes country elegance, as band leader Ann breaks out a subtle falsetto on background. Heart has been popular in Nashville as evidenced by their collaboration with Wynona Judd on CMT Crossroads. “Your Long Journey” showcases a sumptuous Ann Wilson/Kraus vocal with autoharp (Nancy Wilson) and banjitar (Craig Bartock) accents.

The encore gets to the core of Heart. The Wilson sisters perform “Sand” on acoustic guitars. Their folk-laden harmonies (reminiscent of “Dog and Butterfly”) displays a textured warmth that defines the essence of the duo. The band returns for a spirited rendition of “Magic Man”. This song captures the group’s sonic connection to Led Zeppelin with its attitude and hypnotic bombast.
 
The visual quality of the Wizard Red Cam HD is superior in every way. Images are crystalline, and the resolution is pristine.  A variety of camera angles and screen effects bring modern, high-end production edginess without sacrificing the direct focus of the music. Both PCM Stereo and DD 5.1 offer enhanced auditory caliber.
    
– Robbie Gerson




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