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26 August 2008 @ 05:03 pm
Song of the Week #24: Heart "Mistral Wind" (live)  
Heart - "Mistral Wind" (live 2002)
In the words of Nancy Wilson: "In many ways, this is the ultimate Heart song. It's very visual and a lot of care was put into painting a musical landscape that described the words."

On my 16th birthday my parents surprised me with a party, and my good friend Matt surprised me with tickets to see Heart at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Middletown, NY - just a stone's throw from where my parents grew up. It was my third concert (following Bad English/Saraya in Dec. 1989 and Rush/Mr. Big in June of 1990) and Brigade had come out a few months earlier. The first single "All I Wanna Do..." was the huge single, and it was written by the 6th Leppard, Mutt Lange, so that was it's redeeming quality. But the rest of the album - wow, it rocked like they hadn't done since well, the '70s. "Wild Child," and "The Night," were positively heavy. About 15 feet from that stage on a blistering hot night, with a stunning opening set from Giant (remember "I'll See You In My Dreams"? Before Dann Huff went on to the producer's chair), Ann and Nancy blew us away. We were right in front of my man, Howard Leese who brought an arsenal of about 20 guitars and was Mr. Rock and Roll. Nancy's "Tall Dark Handsome Stranger" swing dance, Howard Leese's "Stranded" solo, Nancy's "Stranded" vocals, the lights of "Wild Child," Nancy's dobro on the extended and vicious version of "The Night," the amazing Ann Wilson - it was about 90 degrees, not counting the heat from the stage.

And then the collecting began....20+ live audio shows from the 1990 tour and many from the past, UK vinyl 12"s and 7"s with b-sides, trips to Albany to Central Ave. to pick up vinyl, videos, etc. and the joy when, to my complete surprise, I found an audio bootleg from the show at Worlds Records (what a dive, but lots of gems to be found). Later I was able to get a video of my show as well - what bliss!

Even at the height of the outside writers and the record company pressure to deliver hit after hit, it was still the Wilson sisters who put magic in the song. "Alone" was a great power ballad, but in the hands of Ann Wilson it was something other worldly. You could hear and feel her pain. A power ballad is just a power ballad, but in the hands of a true musician it takes flight - Ann delivers yearning and a loneliness that is unique. For the past decade they have done a stripped down version of piano, acoustic guitar and vocals - it doesn't have the bombastic drama of the 1987 Bad Animals version, but it still soars, even higher than ever, with Ann's vocals. Think about "Dog & Butterfly" in the hands of a lesser vocalist. It would lose all of it's magic. Ann and Nancy were born to sing that song together, just as they were "Dreamboat Annie" and "Love Alive." It's all about those gals and their voices.

"Mistral Wind" has always been my favorite Heart song and it's been getting a lot of spins of late as I finally got to see Heart live again after an 18-year hiatus (they haven't played this neck of the woods in a long time and when I was travelling to more shows they weren't touring). Ann and Nance were amazing, they didn't miss a beat and they rocked! My review of the show is at the end of this post.

The atmospheric first section with Nancy's acoustic and Ann's vocal is just gorgeous, as you sail out to sea on a calm day - the calm before the storm. Check out 3:30 when the drums kick in, I wish you could hear my friend's tape from a 2002 show in Florida that rattles the speakers and sounds like it was pulled off the board. Then enter Ann "I've always held the wheel, but I let the wind steal my power..." as the waves pick up and the storm brews. This particular version is from a 5.1 DVD release and you're missing a lot not hearing it 5.1, but you get the picture :-)

More Heart:
"Crazy On You" live 1990 (watch Nance's guitar solo intro)
"Crazy On You" live at SPAC 8/24/08 (Nance's intro w/ leg kick! The mellow ending section really shows off Ann's power and restraint)
"The Night" live Middletown 7/18/90 - that fateful night

excerpt from my SPAC review 8/24/2008:

July 18, 1990 was the last time I saw Heart live. 15 feet from Howard 'the man' Leese. I finally saw them again last night at SPAC, Aug. 24, 2008.

Wild Child
Magic Man
Never (with Nance on acoustic doing the main riff and then a Nance harmonica solo)
Straight On
These Dreams (Nance on mandolin)
Alone (piano, acoustic, & vocal)
Love Reign on Me (the Who cover)
Going to California (Zep cover)
Silver Wheels/Crazy on You*

*right at the end of Silver Wheels, right before the intro lick to Crazy she did the first acoustic riff of Mistral Wind and my knees buckled! I knew they wouldn't play it and it was leading to Crazy but that it was in there was just WRONG!!!! :-)

All in all a great set (I'd toss the 2 covers out for their own stuff....Reign was good but I was wishing they were playing something else). But you can't complain with Wild Child, Magic, Alone, 'Cuda, Crazy, etc. I could have done without Never, but at least it was different.

2 big chill moments - Alone - after the 2nd verse where it gets all intense with the big Ann howling - it's so much more intense without the band revving up - she just does it on her own and it's stunning! Then of course immediately after the Mistral lick and the Crazy intro strumming and the Nance leg kick into Crazy.... WOW! And very cool that Nance is doing the intro riff to Barracuda (as Howard always used to do it and I think Scott after him). A great night, and I even somewhat still fit into my 1990 tour shirt!