Title: Heart: Fanatic Live from Caesars Colosseum
HTS Overall Score:75.5
Let’s hit the pause button for a moment and take ourselves back to 1985. We're talking Betamax, big hair, acid wash jeans, parachute pants, the astronaut holding an MTV flag, arcades buzzing with games like Gauntlet, Marty McFly, The Breakfast Club...and the comeback of two rockin’ sisters and their band called Heart. That’s where I place Heart in my life’s timeline, at least; These Dreams and What About Love were staples on rock stations' song rotations nation-wide, making them nearly impossible to avoid. The Wilson sisters (Nancy and Ann) were on their way to becoming a sizzling hot commodity, watching their 1985 self-titled album, Heart, soar to number one on the U.S. Billboard charts (it’s their only album to reach those heights). Hardcore fans may argue differently, but Heart’s run of success from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s produced their most well known, if not accessible, songs of their four decade existence.
The band, however, is much bigger than their mid-eighties explosion. The duo brags that they should be regarded as ground breaking, being one of the first female rock acts to write their own material and play instruments too. Originally formed in the early 1970s, the Wilson sisters took front and center stage, pushing the act to commercial success in the late ‘70s with hits like Barracuda and Magic Man. Roughly a decade after their ‘80s rebirth, the band found secondary success with a Top Ten album dubbed Red Velvet Car. Their career has resulted in fifteen studio albums, thirty-five million records sold, four Grammy nominations, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and songs that have infiltrated American culture through radio, film, and television.
The heart of Heart might be a rock-n-roll spirt, but what most pop fans probably associate with the duo is their double dose of incredibly dynamic vocal abilities. Stunningly beautiful, powerful, and (at times) haunting, the Wilson sisters can flat out sing. Whether you’re a fan of their music or not, it’s hard to deny their abilities with a microphone. Add to the mix their musical instrument talents, and the sisters possess the skills to make magical music moments. What’s more amazing is the band’s resilience and continued push to play music for their fans, doubly amazing when you consider they’re quickly approaching ages that many folks consider to be years for retirement (Nancy is 59 years old, Ann is 63).
Heart’s latest release comes as a concert recorded during 2012 at Caesar’s Colosseum in Windsor, Ontario. Filmed by AXS-TV, the recording has been released on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray formats. The Blu-ray release is fairly standard fair, with a slim Blu-ray case, a single Blu-ray disc, visible interior and exterior case art, and a six page glossy booklet (containing pictures from the event, a track list, and performer/production credits). It’s a rather simple package with a Blu-ray disc possessing an equally simple disc menu (play, audio, track list, bonus options) that is clunky and poorly designed.
The presentation opens with a long shot of the stage just moments before the entry of the band. Heart’s set is full of special effects lighting and large screens that display flashing images and art. The camera then switches to a point-of-view shot that follows the Wilson sisters onto the stage. The crowd admittedly looks to be a tad on the older side, but appears ready to see their heroes play some tunes. As the show rolls on, the crowd is rather tame for a rock concert, and they aren’t bashful about waving lighters as opposed to smart phones.
The Wilson sisters are joined on stage by Craig Bartock (guitar), Debbie Shair (keyboards), Ben Smith (drums), Dan Rothchild (bass), and a five musician string arrangement consisting of violins and a cello. For the most part, these backing musicians blend into the backdrop, except for Bartock who crouches rigidly (stage right) as he plays his guitar.
The concert is a mixed bag of sorts, which, as a casual listener of the band, speaks volumes about the different faces of Heart’s sound. Roughly two-thids of the songs are merely bearable and routine sounding, with the remaining third striking chords of originality and catchiness. The crowd seems content with most of the material (including newer songs like Fanatic, Walkin’ Good, and Dear Old America), but express added admiration and excitement as the band rips-off some of their popular 80’s tunes. Heart, in my opinion, has excellent command and control of slower ballads that rely heavily on their voices. This is demonstrated in the acoustic driven (and quite catchy) Walking Good, but is most evident in their performances of What About Love, These Dreams, and Alone. In fact, the strongest song of the set is a powerful rendition of These Dreams that features that familiar synth melody, acoustic guitars, and two powerful voices that intertwine in a mesmerizing dance of power and grace – it’s stunning to watch.
Heart looks much more comfortable and confident singing the latter mentioned songs – the music just appears to flow more naturally. Ann Wilson excels when her voice is given an opportunity to open-up and air-out. Many of their more modern electric guitar driven songs are clunky and lifeless, and Ann Wilson relies on a delivery that is choppier and grittier, resulting in singing that is more a kin to talking.
Material in between songs (talking to the crowd, etc) is hardly inspiring or interesting, with a few moments that are awkward, making that aspect of the show skip worthy. Most of the camera angles are tasteful, switching between direct shots of the artists and accompanying musicians, sweeping shots of the stage and crowd, and shots from behind the artists. Director Mark Lucas does an excellent job piecing these various camera shots together, creating a real sense of presence.
3. What About Love
5. Even It Up
6. 59 Crunch
7. Straight On
8. Dog And Butterfly
9. Walking Good
10. These Dreams
12. Dear Old America
13. Crazy On You
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/heart3.png[/img]Heart: Fanatic Live is delivered by Frontiers Records with a solid AVC hi-def transfer in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. First, let’s dispatch with a few nasty little issues that keep the transfer from excelling: noise, blocking, and banding. Heart’s stage setup is dark with the typical downward lighting mixed with rear (upward projecting) stage lighting that alternates between purples, reds, and blues, and large pixelated display screens mounted in the backdrop. Obviously, this creates an environment that's a clash of color and light, making for incredibly difficult filming conditions. When the stage lights are dimmed, quite a bit of noise invades the screen – it’s not entirely troublesome, though, and is the least of the three issues. The rear, upward facing, stage lights frequently have visible banding as the light thins into the air. The banding is noticeable during long shots and close-ups. Blocking can also occasionally be seen in close-ups when the upward facing lighting is in the background. Are these issues the end of the world? No, but their presence definitely roughens-up a presentation that could have been sharp and edgy. Now on to the good (and there’s plenty of it). The film bends (but doesn’t break) amongst the darkness. Shadow detail is excellent, with little to no evidence of crush. This is especially important because the Wilson sisters are draped in black clothing with many shots involving them in front of dark backgrounds and moving in and out of unlit areas of the stage. Well lit details are abundant and striking, right down to the subtle woodgrains on Nancy Wilson’s sunburst Gibson guitar. The palate is composed of neutral colors that are bright and punchy, with incredibly natural looking skin tones. Blacks are inky and deliciously thick.
Considering the amount of flashing lights, moving images and colors on the back drop screens, the clash of light and dark, and a variety of ever changing camera angles, the image does an excellent job of holding itself together for the majority of the presentation.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//heart4.png[/img]Where’s the DTS-HD Master Audio track? Apparently, not here. If there’s one thing fans want from a recorded Heart concert, it's an audio package that can adequately deliver those trade mark voices with perfectly clarity. Frontiers Records opted to furnish this Blu-ray release with two audio options: 5.1 Dolby Digital and PCM Stereo 2.0, with my preferred track being the 5.1 experience. After flipping between the two, the PCM track sounds notably hollow and thin with noticeable deficits in width and depth. The surround presentation, on the other hand, is super smooth and easy on the ears; fatigue is a non-issue. The vast majority of the sound pumps through the front three and sub channels, with the rears reserved for crowd noise between songs. The sound stage is incredibly wide and perfectly matches instrument positioning on the screen. There’s also good depth to the imaging, with a layered production that places vocals in the foreground and the synthesizer/accompanying stringed instruments further back. Each song has excellent balance, including audible vocals that are clear and beautiful.
It’s tough to find many faults in the audio department, making it one of the presentation’s strengths.
• Performance of the song Magic Man
Heart: Fanatic Live is a release that most casual listeners will likely find to be middling at best, making it pass-worthy for all but the most ardent of Heart fans. Some of their more popular 1980s material is enjoyable to experience (I’m sure there’s a nostalgia factor that increases the impact of those songs), but, unfortunately, most of their newer material isn't accessible enough to be toe-tapping and instantly likable. That being said, this Blu-ray release contains a few goose bump inducing moments as Ann and Nancy’s voices reach sonic heights of impressive beauty. The production value of the disc is solid, with many interesting camera angles that are immersive and provide a sense of "being there." The audio quality of the surround track, despite not being offered in HD-DTS MA, is excellent. The video quality is okay, with a few small issues that are visible throughout the performance.
This is a release that’s easy to recommend as a buy for true Heart fanatics. Casual fans of the band, and folks that have heard their music in passing, should probably pass (or rent, if available).
Starring: Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson
Directed by: Mark Lucas
Written by: Heart
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo 2.0
Studio: Frontiers Records
Runtime: 75 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 25, 2014
Buy Heart: Fanatic Live from Caesars Colosseum on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Must See for Fans of Heart, Otherwise Pass