W/ Special Guests: Heart
Opener: Evan Watson
The Amphitheater at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama
First off, I gotta say that The Amphitheater at The Wharf is a pretty cool venue with not a bad seat in the house. I’d never been to it before and it was a much cleaner and nicer facility than I am used to going to. Then again, since it is located just over the Florida state line in a resort/beach town, it’s a given that the place would be pretty nice and well-maintained. Capacity is about 10,000 and though I can testify that it wasn’t a sell out from the five empty seats around us, it had to have been pretty close.
Here are my thoughts…
Evan Watson is a blues/folk/rock guitarist who I wasn’t familiar with before this show. He wasn’t listed on any of the materials I saw promoting this show. Obviously, being the opening act, the venue wasn’t even half full at this point but those of us that were there appreciated Watson’s work. Great voice that lends a lot of passion and truth to the music he is playing and he came across as very likable during his stage banter.
Pretty interesting set up in that he didn’t have a backing band. Just a man and his guitar (he used some type of pedal setup to keep a beat). From what I can tell by his website, he usually has a backing band called The Headless Horsemen but it looks like he’s going completely solo for this tour.
He played a four or five song set but I can’t remember the name of the first song and in-between “Woodpecker” and “The Giving Tree” he played a song by The Band (the name of that song also escapes me). “Woodpecker” is a pretty cool & lyrically naughty blues rock number but “The Giving Tree” was the set’s highlight for me. I am now a fan and I’m going to check out his album A Town Called Blue and the just-released South EP.
[EDIT: I contacted Evan Watson on his Facebook page and he has informed me of the two songs I was missing.]
“Shape I’m In” (The Band cover)
“The Giving Tree”
When I initially heard about this tour, honestly, Heart wasn’t even a selling point for me. I had seen Def Leppard back in 2009 and wanted to see them again and that’s all there was to it. Yes, I am a fan of Heart but with only two of their albums in my collection, it would be a stretch to say they were a favorite act of mine (although I really enjoy much of their ’70s output). Once they hit the stage though, my mind was totally changed.
Great performance from the entire band with Ann sounding just as good as ever at 62 years of age (it was her birthday and Nancy led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her). It’s just insane that anyone can still sound this good 30 years on. She has to be the best female rock vocalist of all time. As for Nancy, she was full of energy all night — hopping, skipping and jumping around as she played.
The best part of their set was their classic ’70s material along with “WTF” from 2010’s Red Velvet Car. That song is classic Heart in my opinion and fits in well with their older material. Of course, they had a number of hit rock/pop songs in the ’80s and played those as well. These songs went over well with the crowd (though I think the women were more into those songs than the males). Though they certainly weren’t going through the motions, I got the feeling like they just wanted to get through those commercial numbers as quickly as possible (which is probably why they were lumped altogether) as the sisters would jokingly make references to the songs as “another eighties song” and talk about MTV and big hair styles.
Heart is a fantastic, powerful and graceful live band and “Cook With Fire” was on fire. That was easily the best performance of their set. Such a great way to open their set and my only complaint on their performance is that they did not play “Dog & Butterfly”.
“Cook With Fire” (w/intro from “In The Evening” by Led Zeppelin)
“What About Love”
“You’re the Voice”
“Crazy On You”
“What Is and What Should Never Be” (Led Zeppelin cover)
I was pleasantly surprised to see them open with “Undefeated” (one of three new studio tracks from the newly released live album Mirrorball: Live & More – review coming soon!). Though the song has grown on me since first hearing it, it comes off even better live and was a great choice as an opener that the crowd was into.
The rest of the set was about what you’d expect from Def Leppard these days, at least when it comes to playing in the U.S. (they played a slightly different set over in the UK recently that included “Wasted” from On Through the Night). In comparison to the 2009 show I caught them at, they’ve dropped “Rock Rock (‘Til You Drop)”, “Too Late for Love” and “C’mon C’mon” while adding “Undefeated” and “Foolin'”. Other than that, they changed up the running order a bit.
Though there are very little surprises with this band nowadays, they are a tight touring machine and in addition to their precise musical abilities, they have all the smoke, lights and video screens to back them up. It’s great to see them still going out and giving 100% when it comes to presentation. It really is a grand concert experience to see Def Leppard perform live, they hit all their marks, I just wish they would change up the set list a bit more and dust off a few numbers like “Promises”, “20th Century Boy”, “Make Love Like A Man”, “Women”, “Now” or “Gods of War”.
“Let’s Get Rocked”
“Rock On” (David Essex cover)
“Two Steps Behind” (Acoustic)
“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” (Acoustic/Electric)
“Pour Some Sugar on Me”
“Rock of Ages”
Overall, it was a great night. Def Leppard, Heart and Watson all put in great performances and it was a real treat to see Heart perform live. If they ever came back around as headliners, I would be interested in seeing them. The whole venue had a great atmosphere and the weather was about as nice as you could hope for given it’s the south and summertime (had a good breeze going). This is a show worth seeking out this summer and worth every dollar.