Heart at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort
Riverside, Iowa, June 26, 2009
Never underestimate the draw of a band, even the ones that you think are well past the apex of their appeal.
My wife and I came up fast on the exit to the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. After speeding on interstate 380 and getting close to the exit about an hour before showtime, the right lane abruptly shifts from cruising speed to a crawl. I tell my wife that there must be an accident ahead before she corrects me and explains that its the line to see Heart.
My taste in music normally doesn’t intertwine with my wife’s, but on Heart we share somewhat of a mutual admiration, with notable generational differences. I’m a fan of the band’s late ’70s work—the original line-up with Roger Fisher on guitar—while my wife was only familiar with Heart 2.0, the late ’80s comeback material (“Alone,” “These Dreams,” etc.) which is right around the point where I stopped caring about them.
But lately, my opinion of them softened, particularly after revisiting a few albums (Little Queen and Dog & Butterfly) that were frequently spun at our house growing up and after seeing how little Ann Wilson‘s voice has changed in a recent performance on VH1 Classic. Knowing that this would be a rare opportunity to see a band that my wife and I both enjoyed, I decided to purchase tickets to a performance at a nearby casino.
I’d never been to a performance at a casino before, so I tried to get a feel for the set-up when I went to pick up tickets. This performance, along with a few others scattered over the summer, were being billed as the casino’s “summer concert series.” Obviously, the title wasn’t penned by the most creative events coordinator and left much to the imagination, so when I asked the young lady at the gift shop exactly where the performance would be held and inquired about the logistics of such a show, I was a little dismayed at her response. She vaguely explained that the show would be outside, “next to the employee entrance” and that we could start bringing our lawn chairs in about an hour or so before the actual performance.
Now I’ve introduced a few bands in my day for small-town festivals (Nazareth, Night Ranger, Molly Hatchet and even Alex Chilton are all part of my “Please give a warm Riverfest welcome to…” resume), so I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that my wife and I are in for a similar evening on the hot parking lot surface next to the employee entrance of the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort.
It is these moments where you can only run with it, appreciate the opportunity of seeing one of your childhood memories, and get a good dose of people watching in the process. Many times, it is these people that actually manage to take the burden off of the band from performing a decent show.
Thankfully, both the band and the crowd held up their end of the bargain.
It’s a clusterfuck of cars, Iowa heat, and a bunch of middle-aged white people walking the vast casino parking lot with their lawn chairs towards the side of the building. Of course, this description also qualifies for yours truly, but the median age unsettles my wife. She just turned 30 and is very conscious about her age. To put her in the proximity of someone 10-20 years her senior places her within that same demographic. She ponders the clusters of 45 year-old women—many of whom are assumedly divorced or away from their husband and kids for the first time in months—and considers that maybe this will be her in just a few years.
Those that have managed to drag their significant others with them keep a cool distance from them. Husbands with bright Lacoste polos and Taylor Made hats band together in solidarity, occasionally high-fiving each other that they have made it to a legitimate rock show. Their wives huddle together, primed for the Wilson sisters who will surely rock the shit out of their proverbial glass ceiling. They gossip with each other, get louder after each drink, and only acknowledge their husbands when they need extra cash for another $8 Bud Light tallboy.
We found a place next to the casino wall that provided somewhat of a clear view of the stage. Because the barriers are so flimsy and because security is so unorganized, finding a good piece of real estate to set up your lawn chair is a valuable commodity.
In fact, more people follow our lead and within minutes a huge gathering of middle-age couples stood directly in front of us. These were the few that didn’t bring lawn furniture and the few that didn’t bring their manners either. Without caring that their placement clearly blocked our view (and others behind us), the men high-fived each other for finding such a good space while their wives tightly held on to their beer, raising their other hand to the air and letting out a “Whooo!” while shaking their ass to the PA music (Led Zeppelin‘s “Whole Lotta Love”).
A big man, probably 10 years my senior, who was bald and heavily tattooed did not like the fact that these intruders interrupted his line of sight. He began screaming “Hey!” at the four or five couples that troubled him. I looked at him and he angrily told me “If you’re not going to move them…I will!” Again, I’ve had experience at these types of events and understand that a mixture of beer, sun, and Led Zeppelin will cause normal white males to do incredibly stupid things. I acquiesced the invaders presence. The big bald man, however, did not. He began picking up lava rock from the landscaping and throwing them towards the couples. As big as the dude was, his aim was pathetic. Most of his rocks ended up hitting innocent bystanders, and his wife got him to stop after five minutes.
Another reason why he was diffused? Heart took to the stage. I suddenly remembered that it wasn’t my job to watch the drunken shenanigans of small-town concertgoers, but to enjoy the show with my wife and to actually report on the music. The problem is that Heart is still predictably very good. As stated before, Ann’s voice doesn’t appear to have lost much in the term of range. Nancy jumps around stage like a woman half her age, occasionally placing a neat Jimmy Page pose without displaying much guitar prowess to actually back up the choreography. And the band throws down perfectly capable versions of their classics when needed.
Surprisingly though, that was less than expected. Aside from the late ’70s material (they played three of the five songs I wanted to hear, missing “Dog & Butterfly” and the obscure “How Can I Refuse” from my dream set), they totally reworked the polished ’80s material down to acoustic forms, making the night more palatable for me.
They also brought out a heavy amount of covers, letting Ann handle a couple of Zeppelin covers and The Who‘s “Love Reign O’er Me” while Nancy tackled a tepid cover of Tom Petty‘s “You Wreck Me.”
All of this was designed to demonstrate how adaptable the band was/is at standing up alongside their male classic rock counterparts, which may be the reason that all of those middle-aged women showed up that night. The other reason? Evidently it was to hear “Alone.”
Ann quietly allowed just enough open space to let a chorus of women sing each verse before taking over on every “Til now, I always got by on my own” line and destroying any too drunk wannabes by the time she got to the question “How do I get you alone?”
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I could have sworn that the women let everything out on the line “You don’t know how long I have waited…and I was going to tell you tonight.” Does the unanimous choir on that line reflect opportunities lost? Were these ladies’ true loves still out there and now they’re stuck with some schmuck at home or with the douche that’s feeding them those twenties for beers? It sure sounded like it, and it made me wonder if my wife, indeed, would be just like that chorus in ten years time.
Actually, they tried to kidnap her. A group of solo middle-aged women walked next to us as we went through the casino to get a bite to eat after the show ended. Somehow, I got separated from my wife in the crowd when one of the women walked alongside her, advising her that there was a cute little bar just down the road from the casino. She and her group of friends were going and encouraged my wife to tag along.
“You should go with us! There’s bar pizza there! It will be fun! They have taxis here, so you should come with us! It will be awesome!”
My wife politely declined.
She knows that she’s with a magic man, mama.
Kick It Out
You Wreck Me
Love Reign O’er Me
Crazy On You
Trick Of Light (new song)
Goin’ To California