Heart... sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson... while their big hair of yore might be a thing of the past (well, the former still has a fairly hefty barnet), their crowd pulling power is not, as they were able to fill London's iconic Royal Albert Hall in June this year. And, joined as they were by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it was a musically magnificent and symphonically charged take on their rock and power ballad classics. Released on BD, DVD and CD formats, it's the latter two that've been provided for review, and both shine in capturing the occasion.
First, it must be said that this is not Heart live with the RPO for the duration; rather the orchestra only perform on eight of the sixteen tracks in the setlist. The band commence with 'Magic Man', in their standard rock formation, before the RPO are introduced for the second number, 'Heaven', when the multitude of Cadogan Hall musicians take to the stage. They then disappear after the seemingly strategically posited 'Alone', leaving Heart to finish the remainder of the set, as they started, alone, as a sextet. On the songs they perform, the RPO certainly add an interesting layer to Heart's retro rock and power ballad stylings although, as with the case of many of the bands who've subsequently added an orchestral element to tracks from their back catalogue, it almost feels like an afterthought. Band and orchestra do sound at one, and the symphonic element works better on some tracks than others (look no further than Metallica's 'S&M' for a prime example of hit and miss orchestral additions), but it still feels a little superfluous and not as well integrated on occasion.
Heart, themselves, are on fine form and, while it's Ann who primarily assumes lead vocal duties, time has been kind to both their voices, as the sisters sing with power and emotion. There are also moments where they demonstrate their talents beyond mere singing. Nancy, the younger of the two siblings, aside from her guitar playing throughout, plays electro-acoustic with a bow, and Ann plays both autoharp and a flute on a couple of numbers. Stating their intent early on, Ann tells the audience: "We're gonna be playing, tonight, songs from all parts of our career, but what are a few decades between friends here.". So, songs from their most recent album - 'I Jump', 'Heaven' and 'Beautiful Broken' (the latter being a refreshingly punked-up heavier number in the midst of their otherwise easy listening repertoire) - are mixed up with the expected classics, and each greeted by cheers from the Albert Hall masses, right up to set closer 'Silver Wheels/Crazy on You', which is followed by encores of 'Sand', 'No Quarter', 'Barracuda' and 'Kick It Out'
Visually, the DVD does a great job in visually representing the show, with strategically placed cameras, both roaming and static, from the back of the stage, on the stage, in the crowd, high above the crowd, etc, that capture not only the band from a pleasing array of angles, but also the grandeur of the venue in all of its architectural magnificence and aesthetic glory. And the three audio options - Dolby Stereo; Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound - will no doubt please the audiophiles, with something to suit disparate sound configurations and tastes.
The DVD also has a single bonus feature, which comes in the form of a thirteen minute interview with the two ladies. It begins with peripheral shots of the Royal Albert Hall, with Ann's voice-over chatting away about what she expects from the show. This cuts to footage from their final rehearsal, where the orchestra can be heard in isolation and with the band, which is intercut with the siblings discussing different aspects of the show and their music. They state, for example, that 'Dreamboat Annie' was only put in the set because they thought it'd sound great with an orchestra. There's also footage of them chatting to Nick Davies, the RPO conductor. The interview/s reveal interesting, albeit brief, insights into their motivation behind the show, and reflections on the gravitas of the occasion of performing in such a prestigious and historical venue.
The CD provides a nice companion format to the DVD, and the quality of the audio is great. The majority of the between-song talking has been removed, evidently to trim the 80+ minutes of the show so that it'll fit onto a single disc, so this is not the full concert experience here... well, inherently it's not that as the DVD will undoubtedly be the choice of many to gain the full visual/audio impact of Heart's Royal Albert Hall debut. And, with the timing of this release, I'm sure the DVD, BD and CD will find their way into many Christmas stockings.
Eagle Rock Entertainment
LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Review by Mark Holmes
25th Nov 2016
CD: 1) Magic Man; 2) Heaven; 3) Dreamboat Annie; 4) What About Love; 5) I Jump; 6) Sweet Darlin'; 7) Two; 8) These Dreams; 9) Alone; 10) Beautiful Broken; 11) Mashallah!; 12) Silver Wheels / Crazy on You; 13) Sand; 14) No Quarter; 15) Barracuda; 16) Kick It Out
DVD: Same tracklist as CD, plus bonus feature of 'Interview With The Band'
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a musically magnificent and symphonically charged take on their rock and power ballad classics."
(CD & DVD EDITIONS)