Where have all the great rock chicks gone!? When I was growing up in the '80s, women like Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and Lita Ford dominated the pop charts. These women could belt it out with the best of 'em, rip a guitar to shreds with one hand, and still kick your ass in a dark alley.
But even the greatest of rock divas must bow before Heart. Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson could eat Beyonce for breakfast, and break the backs of the rest of the other Destiny's Child chicks like a toothpick. Tough as nails, with decades of touring under their belts, the Wilson wunderkinds are the real deal -- singers, songwriters and musicians. And they've lived the life. When they sing about heartache, bad boys with tattoos and makin' love in the back of a dirty van with a six-string poking your back, it's no BS -- they've wrung every single last rock cliche out to dry.
'Heart: Alive in Seattle' finds Ann and Nancy a bit past their heyday, first as '70s rock queens and later '80s big-hair power balladeers. Recorded in 2003, all those road-weary years have clearly resulted in a few wrinkles and few extra pounds, but never underestimate the Wilsons -- they can still rawk with the best of 'em. They play all their big hits ('Crazy for You,' 'Magic Man,' 'Barracuda' and the Bic-lighter classic 'Alone'), and have the energy and vitality of an act half their age. Ann (the dark-haired raven) also possesses one of the greatest female voices in rock, and still manages to belt it all the way out to the cheap seats. Meanwhile, Nancy is easily her equal on the guitar, shredding multi-chord progressions with ease and even lending her own willowy, impressive vocals on tracks like 'These Dreams.'
Unfortunately, the band doesn't really put on much of a visual spectacle these days. No longer filling arenas, this is more of the intimate theater type of show -- and not a great one, at that. The set is non-existent, the lighting too bright and bland, and the girls seemed dressed for a trip to a mall, not as the rock royalty they are. I didn't expect big video screens and a cavalcade of dancers, but the sameness of the staging quickly wears thin and lacks any dynamics. Still, purely in terms of the music, 'Alive in Seattle' delivers the goods, and the band sounds as tight as they ever have. Here's hoping they keep touring for another twenty years.
The track list: 01. Crazy on You / 02. Sister Wild Rose / 03. The Witch / 04. Straight On / 05. These Dreams / 06. Mistral Wind / 07. Alone / 08. Dog and Butterfly / 09. Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters / 10. Battle of Evermore / 11. Heaven / 12. Magic Man / 13. Two Faces of Eve / 14. Love Alive / 15. Break the Rock / 16. Baracuda / 17. Wild Child / 18. Black Dog / 19. Dreamboat Annie
'Heart: Alive in Seattle' was one of Image Entertainment's debut HD DVD releases, and it is a very nice start. The concert was shot with HD cameras, and is presented here in 1.78:1 widescreen 1080i/VC-1 video.
Typical of live shot-on-HD music presentations, it has that incredibly crisp, you-are-there look. Since the show is so brightly lit, detail is often fantastic. Close-ups reveal every last drop of sweat on the band's face, and the ridges in the coils of a guitar string. Colors are quite vivid, with the staging relying mostly on rich reds, blues and purples for strong effect. Hues remain very solid, with only very slight noise in the most saturated moments. Contrast is also not too hot, so the image has pop but doesn't look overly harsh. Compression holds up well, with only a tiny bit of what looked like posterization in a couple of fine color gradients.
Image continues to prove they are an high-def indie distributor to watch with 'Alive in Seattle,' supporting both Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital-Plus. Oddly, however, only 5.0 surround options are provided. Which is a shame, because a dedicated .1 LFE channel is would have been great. (In another oddity, the disc features subtitles in Japanese only.)
The mix itself is quite strong. I was impressed with how clean the sound is for a rock show, with none of the hard high-range that often mars such presentations. Vocals are also powerhouse, with Ann's rich multi-octave range showcased to excellent effect. Again, though, bass seems lacking. Though not immediately noticeable, it is hard not to feel that a whomping subwoofer would have really driven home rockers like 'Barracuda.' Surrounds are typical for a live music recording, reserved primarily for crowd noise and very slight reverb.
Previously included in the standard-def release of this title as an easter egg is this disc's only supplement, a 9-minute Interview with Ann and Nancy Wilson. Unfortunately, it's really just an extended commercial for the concert. As such, it's very heavy on clips from the show, cutting the total interview time by almost half. The Wilsons' comments are pretty typical, from their love of touring, to the choices in the set list, to (of course) how fantastic their fans are. The quality is only decent as well, presented in 4:3 full screen 1080i video.
I love Heart, and 'Alive in Seattle' is a pretty good document of one of their recent concert tours. Unfortunately, the staging isn't all that dynamic, so I suspect some viewers will quickly grow bored. Still, there are a ton of great hits here, so if you're a even a casual fan, it's well worth catching up with the band again on HD DVD. Image Entertainment put together a nice release for their next-gen debut, including a particularly strong video. This may not be an absolutely superlative high-def music release, but I certainly look forward to what Image has in store for us on high-def in the months and years to come.