Here’s a look back as we look forward to Heart’s Sept. 4 Tacoma Dome concert.
Long before Heart was a chart-topping, platinum-selling band inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson and their bandmates were just one of many local bands kicking around the clubs and taverns of the Pacific Northwest.
Heart recorded a slew of Top 10 hits, including “Magic Man,” “These Dreams” and “Alone,” but the band’s early success was forged in dingy taverns and nightclubs — one of which was located on Highway 99 in Shoreline.
In the early 1970s, the band moved from the Seattle area to Vancouver, B.C., where it recorded its breakout hits and found its first commercial success with “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man.”
In the summer of 1976, the band was gigging at the Aquarius Tavern in Shoreline, playing a set that consisted of songs from its debut LP, “Dreamboat Annie,” along with covers by Willie Dixon, Badfinger and Led Zeppelin.
Earlier that year, word-of-mouth buzz about the band was spreading when it caught the ear of Seattle Times music critic Patrick MacDonald. “We play hard, hard rock,” Nancy Wilson told MacDonald in an interview with the Times in February 1976. “But we’re a happy group, never negative. That’s one of our appeals,” Nancy Wilson said.
MacDonald also wrote that by then Heart was one of the biggest groups in Canada, with hit singles and an album that had sold 45,000 copies. Heart toured Canada with big-name acts such as Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart and the Faces, ZZ Top and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
When MacDonald asked the band if they were going to be big stars, Wilson jokingly said: “We’re going to be big, Big, BIG!”
Turns out, she was right.
Heart’s first big show in Seattle was opening for English rock band Supertramp on Friday, March. 19, 1976. In a review of that show, MacDonald, wrote: “… they must have been disappointed because their set was plagued by light and sound problems (because of Supertramp’s elaborate setup, Heart didn’t get a light or sound check before the show) which ruined their momentum.”
Luckily for Heart, the audience didn’t seem to care and responded with a whistling, stomping five-minute ovation calling the band back for an encore — a demand not usually afforded to local openers.
By 1979, they’d graduated to headliners and became the only rock band to play three consecutive shows at the Seattle Center Coliseum — setting an attendance record of 45,000.
Heart would go on to sell more than 35 million records worldwide, with album sales of 22.5 million in the U.S. In 2012, the band pulled off a chill-inducing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” while honoring that band at the Kennedy Center Honors. That performance showcased the incredible range of vocalist Ann Wilson and earned the group a standing ovation from Zeppelin’s surviving members John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
Heart has had ups and downs over its nearly 50-year run, but there is no disputing the fact that Ann and Nancy Wilson, who were raised in Bellevue, have cemented their place in rock ‘n’ roll history. The origins for their rise from hardscrabble local act to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees began right here in Seattle.
Correction: This post has been updated to show that the Aquarius Tavern was located on Highway 99 in Shoreline and that Supertramp and Heart performed March 19, 1976.
Heart, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Elle King. 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4; Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma; tickets start at $34.50, tacomadome.org