Heart’s pulse stays strong

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The applause has been deafening.

For the past five years, it seems as if everybody has stepped up to recognise the contribution of Heart to the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

The American band – led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson – was finally inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

They’ve also been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

And they performed Stairway to Heaven at the 2012 Kennedy Centre Honours tribute to Led Zeppelin – watched by Plant, Page and Jones themselves along with US President Barack Obama.

So the New Zealand tour with Foreigner and Three Dog Night, which hits Queenstown on Saturday, must feel like an encore; a chance to blast out more favourites after a long cacophonous appreciation.

“It’s a truly great honour being recognised by your peers – going into that sorta club,” Ann Wilson tells Mountain Scene over the phone from her home in Seattle.

“If you’re able to hang in there and keep playing, keep sounding good, reinvent it and have a good time with it yourself, then I think there’s a point you blast through and you’re probably not going to fade away, you become an entity people respect.

“Of course, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a little bit political – it has a lot to do with not only your imprint on popular culture but mostly what Jann Wenner [co-founder of Rolling Stone and Hall member/lobbyist] thinks of you.”

The acclaim followed 2010 Billboard Top 10 album Red Velvet Car and 2012’s popular Fanatic – coming nearly 35 years after their first big hit and contributing to their multi-platinum 35 million of worldwide album sales.

They also released an autobiography Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll, chronicling their lives as pioneering female rockers and the heady days of hedonistic touring.

“Things used to be a lot wilder than they are now,” laughs Wilson.

“We’re pretty focused on the music now, not what happens after the music’s over.

“It’s fun to not be up there on stage with a hangover because of the night before – think about what that was like.”

Wilson says they’ll decide on a set during rehearsals with the current band – drummer Ben Smith, lead guitarist Craig Bartock, keyboardist Debbie Shair and bassist Dan Rothchild.

But 70s hits such as Crazy on You, Magic Man, Barracuda, Straight On, and 80s/90s hits These Dreams, Alone, and What About Love are on the table.

“We change it up all the time and we include newer things we’re into – they might be covers, songs we’re working on or songs we have that nobody even knows.

“It’s like a festival, so we’ll try to make a set that rocks but that does have that special thing that Heart does that’s the romance, the gentleness as well.

“They can expect rock ‘n’ roll and a few ballads.

“This is a heavy band and it has women fronting, that’s what’s really different about Heart. We have our own special kind of soul.”

Wilson says outdoor gigs add to the rock ‘n’ roll excitement, while providing fuel for her unmistakable voice.

“And as a singer, it’s great for me because I can really get the air in.

“I like to fly [on stage] – when I get out there I just want to punch.”

Heart, Foreigner and Three Dog Night play Gibbston Valley Winery this Saturday from 11am. Tickets $99 plus booking fee