Battling siblings is nothing new in the Rock realm but no one would ever have guessed that Heart’s Wilson sisters would join that acrimonious hall of infamy. After nearly four decades of literal and figurative harmony and three years after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ann and Nancy Wilson went from arm-in-arm sisterhood to an episode of The Real Bandmates of Seattle in 2016 when Nancy had Ann’s husband thrown in jail for allegedly assaulting her sons during Heart’s tour for their re-interpretive album Beautiful Broken. The ugliness proliferated; the sisters communicated through third parties for the remainder of the tour, then Ann threw herself into her solo career and Nancy formed the band Roadcase Royale.
That was, as they say, a lot.
In announcing their Love Alive summer tour, which has now been extended into October, the Wilsons assiduously avoided mentioning the incident that caused the rift and spoke in more generic hiatus-to-comeback terms: the need for a break; the benefits of working apart; positive vibes; love conquers all; and, perhaps most importantly, the brightness of the future. The Wilsons’ bitter division may have been completely unexpected, but their reconciliation seemed like a foregone conclusion, given their long history of surviving success, excess, personal heartbreak and professional droughts.
From the beginning, Heart was touched by a certain magic; with their breakthrough sophomore album, 1975’s Dreamboat Annie, critics and radio programmers alike anointed them as the “female Led Zeppelin,” and their ascent on a platinum stairway to heaven was assured. Years of multi-million selling albums and singles and sold-out arena shows ultimately gave way to the inevitable indifference of younger, more distracted audiences, until Heart reinvented itself as itself, embracing their inner Zeppelin again to amazing effect; the Wilsons’ performance of “Stairway to Heaven” at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors for Zeppelin, featuring Jason Bonham on drums, was shivery and tear-inducing.
Heart’s string of late-career albums signaled their return, including 2010’s Red Velvet Car, their first Top 10 album in two decades; 2012’s equally successful and return-to-formidable Fanatic; and 2016’s aforementioned Beautiful Broken, a new-tracks-and-reimagined-old-songs stunner.
Heart plays Riverbend Music Center Saturday with guest Elle King.