Heart’s Ann Wilson could easily be a Newfoundlander. She’s got a comfy, genuine, relaxed vibe about her which gives you the feeling, after just minutes of speaking with her, you might have known her all your life.
Then again, that could be because you have — 35 years after Heart released its first album and 25 years after it had you humming along to power ballads like “Alone,” the band is still going strong, and is bringing its show to this province with performances at Mile One Centre in St. John’s Jan. 28 and Corner Brook’s Pepsi Centre Jan. 29, as part of a Canada-wide tour.
Though natives of the United States, Ann and her sister Nancy consider Canada their “spiritual home,” the band having formed in Vancouver in the early 1970s.
“We were just young people without a penny, hitchhiking and eating brown rice and playing guitar,” Ann told The Telegram. After playing shows around Vancouver, Heart started getting gigs elsewhere in the province and then in Alberta, Ann said. In 1975, the band released “Dreamboat Annie,” its first full-length album, in Canada, and sold 30,000 copies within a few months, thanks to songs like “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man.” The album went on to sell more than a million copies.
More albums and a brief period of decline in early ’80s saw Heart return with a vengeance with a self-titled record in 1985, spawning the hits “What About Love?,” “Never” and “These Dreams.” Heart songs have been featured in movies, on TV shows like “Glee” and “American Idol,” in commercials, and videogames like Guitar Hero and Rockband. Artists including Eminem and Fergie have sampled and covered Heart tunes.
Now, a dozen albums and 22 Top 40 hits after they started, the band is returning to its roots, somewhat, with the latest CD, “Red Velvet Car,” released last August.
The CD is much more acoustic than the rocking electric guitar riffs the band came to be known for during the 80s, and is reminiscent of “Dreamboat Annie,” as well as having a more intimate, honest sound.
The sisters have described the album as their most personal work to date.
“We didn’t do it on purpose; we didn’t really have any expectations,” Ann said. “We just said, ‘Let’s forget about everything and make ourselves happy.’ As it turned out, without all those expectations and self-criticisms, we came out with something that was truly us.
“Each and every one of the songs is written about life. People always praise Taylor Swift for writing about her ex-boyfriends and talk about how she writes about her life, but everyone does that. Our album is no exception: we write about people we love and things we know. The best songs are the ones that are real.”
Songs on the CD touch on everything from the classic love affair, to being on the road, to the Wilsons’ great-great-great grandmother. “Sunflower” was written by Nancy for Ann as a birthday gift, while “WTF” is an intense, angry song — written to oneself.
“How much talking does it take/ Talking ’bout your bad mistakes/ Gonna talk you wide awake/Talk until your ego breaks,” the song goes.
“It’s so easy to point the finger at someone else and say, ‘You’re such a screw-up,’ but then all of a sudden the fog lifts and you realize you could be saying those things to yourself,” Ann explained. “If we didn’t have moments like that, we wouldn’t be human beings.”
Heart will also release “Night at Sky Church” on DVD and Blu-Ray Feb. 15. Filmed in high definition at Seattle’s Sky Church venue about a year ago, the concert disc features a mix of classic hits and tracks from “Red Velvet Car.”
Heart was joined on stage by Allison Krauss on three tracks, as well as Canadian musician/songwriter/producer Ben Mink — who produced the latest album — on fiddle and guitar. Talk has already begun on the next Heart album, Ann said, and Mink is expected to produce that one, too.
“Night at Sky Church” is a good representation of a typical Heart show, Ann said, and local fans can expect similar performances in St. John’s and Corner Brook. Not too similar, however.
“If you come to see us, each night is different. I never say the same thing on stage twice,” Ann said. “We’re not interested in being like a jukebox; a re-packaged version of ourselves. If we did that, it would be a big mistake. I think it’s much easier for Nancy and I to keep things fresh, and we have to do that. We don’t want to get stale and boring.
“People (in Newfoundland) should come on out to the shows. We’re coming out through the snow to see you — you should come on out and see us.”
Tickets for Heart’s concert at Mile One Centre are $65, including tax, plus surcharge, and are available at the Mile One box office by calling 709-576-7657 or 1-855-790-1245, or online at www.mileonecentre.com.
Tickets for the Pepsi Centre show are $66, tax and surcharge included, and are available at the Pepsi Centre box office or by calling 709-637-1233.
More on the Heart stops in NL, including thoughts from selected opening act (Cape Breton singer/songwriter Carmen Townshend) and the Wilson sisters answers to questions from readers submitted via our Twitter feed, can all be found in the print edition of The Weekend paper.