Heart & Friends - 'Home For The Holidays'

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Heart & Friends - 'Home For The Holidays'

As a different perspective of a band once again on top of their game, it makes for interesting viewing.

Though they've been around since 1974 and enjoyed their biggest selling period in the mid-eighties, 2013 was one of Heart's most successful years since their resurgence in 2010. To mark the end of the year, Heart staged a special Christmas performance in their hometown of Seattle, joined by a number of special guests to run through a selection of seasonal tunes and covers.

Here in the U.K. at Christmas we're normally satisfied with Noddy Holder, mince pies and a few cans of Special Brew, but in the U.S.A. things are done with more style and panache, if also a little more schmaltz. The antics of the Dickensian elfish characters that occasionally frequent the stage are something of an annoying distraction, but that aside this is a classy albeit mostly laid-back show.

They take the stage, which is dominated by an enormous Christmas tree, with a stunning take on Joni Mitchell's 'The River' on which Ann Wilson's beautiful voice simply soars, but then after the Elton John/Bernie Taupin written 'Seasons' Ann leaves the stage to let sister Nancy collaborate with the special guests, the first of which is Folk singer Shawn Colvin who sings the carols 'Rocking' and 'Love Come Down At Christmas'. Richard Marx is then introduced to sing harmony vocals with Nancy on 'All Through The Night', but I feel that for somebody of Marx's talent (and somebody who has his own Christmas release available) he is woefully under-used here. Next up is the "Red Rocker" Sammy Hagar; first of all he and Nancy duet on 'All We Need Is An Island' from Hagar's last album – it's great but the summery feel of the song is somewhat at odds with the Festive nature of the setting – but then Hagar's own composition 'Santa's Going South (For Christmas)' is a jaunty up-tempo highlight in a predominantly serene set.

Ann returns to the stage to duet wonderfully with Train's Pat Monahan on the Elvis Presley/Eagles/Bon Jovi nugget 'Please Come Home For Christmas', then Harry Nilsson's 'Remember Christmas' brings an end to the Seasonal offerings. As interesting as they are, it's when Nancy straps on her electric guitar and cranks out the riff to the classic 'Barracuda' that the crowd truly erupt for the first time and rightly reward Heart with a standing ovation for an amazing rendition of the song; Nancy and Craig Bartock exchanging guitar licks at its conclusion. It's followed by Heart's stunning take on 'Stairway To Heaven', an already epic song taken to new heights with the addition of a Gospel choir – it really shouldn't work, yet it's a truly captivating version.

All the special guests return to the stage, minus Hagar ("Sammy's in Cabo already" Ann quips at his absence), to perform Bob Dylan's 'Ring Them Bells' (first covered on the 'Desire Walks On' album) to close the show. The seasonal selections won't be to everybody's tastes, but as a different perspective of a band once again on top of their game, it makes for interesting viewing.

Ant Heeks

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