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Heart goes back to its roots in show at First Niagara Pavilion

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Sunday, July 21, 2013, 11:36 p.m.

Perhaps, to reinforce the band's recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Heart strongly emphasized its hard rock roots over pop ballads of the 1980s on Sunday night at the First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown.

Ann Wilson came out swinging with the growling, intense “Barracuda.” She ended the show with a beautiful, rocking rendition of “Stairway to Heaven,” which capped a long, six-song encore that offered mostly rocking Led Zeppelin songs performed with opening act Jason Bonham, who also sang some Zeppelin classics during his portion of the Heartbreaker tour.

There's no question that these Wilsons — sisters Ann and Nancy — can rock. Powerfully. This may have surprised some younger fans who knew Heart mostly for the band's comeback in the 1980s, when Heart shifted to a lighter pop sound.

The sisters almost gave the crowd the impression that they want to pretend, as much as they can get away with, that their success in the 1980s never happened. The band only sang three songs from that era, and they were “These Dreams,” “What About Love,” and “Alone.” Everything else came from the band's earlier days and their 2012 album “Fanatic.”

While Heart's shift in style may have been a departure from the band's main identity as hard rockers in a music genre dominated by men, the band can't forget that millions of their fans came from that era. To hear so little from a major point of the band's career — even as great as the other music sounded — was a disservice to these fans.

The band also stripped down the instrumentation on “Alone,” almost eliminating the instrumentation in the chorus. Seeing Ann Wilson belt out this song, one of the prettiest power rock ballads ever, is one of the highlights of a Heart concert. It remained a special treat, despite the disappointing background sound.

Both Ann Wilson — clad in a glittery, tasseled, black wrap — and Nancy still sound mostly great and mostly the same. These women likely will continue making and performing for many years beyond their four decades.

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