Album review: HEART – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

HEART - Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Eagle Records [Release date 25.11.16] CD/DVD/Bluray

Call me Mr. Cynical.  Heart announced their first UK dates since 2004 and we all waited in eager anticipation.  Come the actual tour, we saw them in Manchester and noted the criminally short one hour set which failed to do justice to their 40 year-plus legacy.

Lo and behold, one of the key dates was the band’s first ever gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall and accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  One can’t help thinking that this gig was the raison d’etre, the incentive, and the axis around which this rare (and short) UK tour turned.  It was of course going to be filmed for a future release…

The setlist is almost identical to the show they took to the provinces, with the addition of ‘Mashallah!’ but without the two extra Zeppelin tributes (although some might say this is a blessing).  You can’t help thinking that – for this tour – they rehearsed the numbers that would go well in an orchestral situation.

It would help explain a lot of things and, if true, would be a monumental exercise in marketing opportunism rather than real payback to their loyal fanbase.  Unfortunately the interviews on the DVD don’t enlighten us about motives although Nancy Wilson opines:  “Worth it for the thrill, worth it for the history”.  Worth it for the, er, money?

Length of set is something I raised with Bad Company’s Simon Kirke recently as they also were – in Simon’s words – possibly short of a few songs.  However he thought that for many audiences a two hour set is too much.  It would be if you are an indifferent participant, with a stash of greatest hits compilations crammed in the rear loader of your Beemer.  If you know your ‘Bad Animals’ from your ‘Brigade’ you will want your pound of flesh.  Heart may never tour again this side of the pond.

It’s not as if Heart are light on live albums/DVDs and in the past we’ve had very respectable releases in the shape of ‘Fanatic Live’ (2014) and, before that, ‘Alive In Seattle’, in 2003.  Moreover, twenty years ago ‘The Road Home’ featured a string quartet (and four of the songs feature on Live At The Albert Hall).

The only brave thing about the UK tour was that they played half of the new album ‘Beautiful Broken’ (although with only two truly ‘new’ songs) and, of course, there’s the novelty playing with a British orchestra.  This works well for the big set-pieces like ‘What About Love’ , ‘These Dreams’ and ‘Alone’ and  the Zeppelin-esque ‘I Jump’.  Did London get the best gig?  You decide, but I would suggest the provincial amongst us might feel a little short-changed.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Gig review (Manchester, 30 June)
Album review (Beautiful Broken)

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