Heart opened its set with “Cook with Fire,” the opening track off its 1978 album “Dog & Butterfly.” Ann Wilson stalked the stage in head-to-toe black with a flute in hand before zipping through a rare flute solo. Guitarist Nancy Wilson noted that the group would be playing lots of music from the `80s. It bounded through “Never,” “What About Love,” “These Dreams,” and “Alone” before ending the set in the `70s with “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You,” “Barracuda,” and an encore of Led Zeppelin’s “What is and What Will Never Be.”
Ann and Nancy Wilson (61 and 57, respectively, pictured below) looked younger and healthier than most rockers their age.
Nancy Wilson glides across the stage like a gazelle fluidly bouncing and kicking just like she did on MTV in the `80s. While some singers lose range with age, Ann Wilson’s voice remains amazing as exhibited best during the quiet “Alone.” “American Idol” should recruit her as a guest instructor.
Def Leppard bounded on stage with its latest single “Undefeated.” Ready-made for a sports commercial with footage of Michael Jordan, its deeper meaning was revealed through flashes of newspaper clippings about the band’s hardest years (drummer Rick Allen’s car wreck, guitarist Steve Clark’s death). One even declared it the “most unlucky (sic) band in the world.” But it proved itself not so unlucky. Few bands of its era still fill outdoor amphitheatres, but its audience enthusiastically followed it through “Let’s Get Rocked” all the way to the finale of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
I can’t remember an entire audience so uninhibitedly animated as it was during “Sugar.” Between those and an encore of “Rock of Ages” it hit on “Animal,” “Foolin’,” and “Hysteria.” I could’ve done without its cover of “Rock On” (a hit for David Essex in 1974 and soap star Michael Damian in 1989) in exchange for another original. Joe Elliott, like many aging vocalists, occasionally struggled with higher notes (“Love Bites” was played a step down from the original), but strong backing vocals from his band mates made up for it. All but Allen gathered at stage front for an acoustic portion that included “2 Steps Behind” and “Bringing on the Heartbreak.”
The British five-piece seemed to revel in playing tracks like “Armageddon It.” Guitarist Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen (pictured above) were all smiles, with the latter seeming playfully cocky winking at the crowd. Both appeared to be in great shape. At 53, Collen, a longtime vegetarian according to “People Magazine,” was ripped enough to audition for the next “Transporter” movie (his trainer Muay Thai champion Jean Carrillo was best man at his 2010 wedding).
Both bands played about the same number of songs, but neither played every single hit of its career. I think the audience would’ve happily stuck around for more.