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Hall of famers Heart getting back to work

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Norman Seeff
Nancy and Ann Wilson are Heart

Heart singer Ann Wilson has a simple philosophy these days.

“At this point in our career, at this point in our creative life, there's no point at all in not doing exactly what we feel like doing,” she says.

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson and their band Heart have certainly earned that privilege. The group has pretty much achieved everything a band could want out of a career.

The group has had huge success — selling more than 35 million albums and notching 21 Top 40 hit singles, headlining the biggest of arenas along the way. The Wilson sisters, in particular, have had a major impact on music, being among the first women to break into the rock scene, helping to open doors for several generations of female artists who have followed. Ann Wilson is universally hailed as one of rock's greatest female singers, while Nancy Wilson has shown that, as a guitarist, a woman can hold her own with most any other guitarist around.

The impact of the Wilson sisters and Heart was confirmed earlier this year when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To say the least, Ann Wilson was blown away by the Hall of Fame recognition.

“If you're thinking of rock as an institution, it is definitely the highest honor,” she said. “You can't go any higher than that. It's like getting an Oscar. So, it was just an amazing feeling. I'm still processing it. … I'm honored. It's very amazing.”

Now, Wilson and Heart are getting back to work — but doing something that very much meets the criteria of being fun.

The band is touring this summer with drummer Jason Bonham, son of late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, who is bringing out his Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience show to open the evening. They'll all be at First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown on July 21.

To close the shows, Bonham will join Heart to play an extended encore of Led Zeppelin songs.

Heart has often played Led Zeppelin songs in concert, and the Wilson sisters consider the British rock legends one of their biggest influences.

“They were teachers for us,” Ann Wilson says. “I mean, we had a few different artists that we really listened to deeply and learned from. Paul Simon was another one. The Beatles was another one. But I think the thing about Zeppelin that was really, really special to us was the acoustic, the rock inside of the acoustic.”

The tour with Bonham figures to be another high point in what has been a busy, rewarding — and yes, fun — past couple of years for Heart.

The period has seen the group release a forward-looking studio album, “Fanatic.” The album combined strong songs with creative sonics. Heart also released a career-spanning box set, “Strange Euphoria,” which was populated with a generous number of demos, rare live cuts and unreleased tunes spanning the band's career.

Then there was an autobiography on the Wilson sisters and Heart, called “Kicking and Dreaming,” which was published last fall.

Wilson says she and Nancy didn't hold back in telling their story, which chronicled the various highs and lows of Heart's career, the band's music and the challenges that came with being among the first women to front, write music and play instruments in a hard-rocking band, as well as the private lives lived along the way.

“We decided pretty early on there was really no point in doing it if we were just going to do a big, covered-up whitewash,” she says. “So, we told our story as openly and honestly as we can, having living children and everything. And so it's a pretty interesting story.”

Heart performs with Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience at 7:30 p.m. July 21 at First Niagara Pavilion. Tickets are $21 to $160.50. Details: 800-745-3000 or www.livenation.com

Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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