- Wilson brings Heart classics and new jams to the Cohn this week.
Nancy Wilson w/Roadcase Royale
Wednesday, August 15, 8pm
Rebecca Cohn Auditorium 6101 University Avenue
After 40 years as a working musician, Nancy Wilson knows how to get shit done.
Wilson is best known as half of the powerhouse rock 'n' roll duo Heart with her sister Ann. But when she touches down at the Rebecca Cohn on August 15, she'll be playing with a brand-new ensemble called Roadcase Royale, a supergroup of sorts, featuring three members of Heart's touring band: Ben Smith, Chris Joyner and Dan Rothchild. The frontperson is Liv Warfield, vocalist for Prince's New Power Generation, and the group is rounded out by Warfield's guitarist Ryan Waters. Officially billed as "Nancy Wilson from Heart with Roadcase Royale," the band assembled, got acquainted and wrote an album's worth of music together with a seemingly lightning-fast efficiency.
"We just really hit it off with players and collaborators right off the bat," Wilson says. "We only had a couple three-day blocks to actually get together in the rehearsal place and do the writing. We knew we had to write quickly. It's so much better to do it that way. It was just a cool, inspiring collaboration with experienced musicians that know how to listen to each other, give ideas and know how to not have an ego about it, if your ideas get shut down."
Warfield's powerhouse vocals are the binding gel that holds Roadcase Royale's rootsy grooves together (along with, of course, Wilson's indefatigable energy, guitar chops and high kicks). The Wilson sisters enlisted Warfield to open for two Hollywood Bowl shows in 2015 after seeing a video of her performing on Jimmy Fallon with the New Power Generation.
Wilson speaks about Warfield's abilities with awe, particularly with regards to her interpretations of Heart songs (yes, the band will be performing some classic, yet-to-be cited Heart music in its set).
"She blows my wig off anytime I stand on a stage with her," she says. "It's beautiful because there's no way to really compare Liv's style of doing the Heart songs with the Ann Wilson way of doing it. I think people would compare [Warfield and Ann] if she wasn't such an individual in her own right. And what she brings to the songs, it's all her own of power."
This leads to the elephant in the room— namely, why Nancy Wilson is performing Heart songs without her sister in tow. The sisters have experienced "distance"—in Nancy's words— since 2016, when Ann's husband Dean Wetter was arrested for allegedly assaulting Nancy's two sons while Heart was on a tour stop in Auburn, Washington. Both sisters spoke about the incident with various media, including Rolling Stone, with grace and candour, and they've had little contact in the ensuing years. Wilson says there's no point in trying to hide this type of thing.
"There's no use trying to hide anything that's true," she says. "It makes things worse if you avoid telling the truth. So I was very upfront about what happened. It's been long enough now—all families go through shit like that. Not every family, but most families do. People have to figure it out, make peace."
Making peace seems to be in the future for the sisters. "What I'm gonna do, I guess, is reach out to her, track her down in some city, try and sit in a room and see what a Heart tour would look like, what it would sound like, and what songs she'd be willing to do again," says Nancy. "It's for the fans, and for the legacy. I have hope for a Heart summer tour in 2019." (Ann is currently opening for Paul Rodgers and Jeff Beck.)
It's a relief to know that we haven't heard the last from Heart, and in the meantime, Roadcase Royale holds up the rock 'n' roll feminist vanguard with songs like "Get Loud," inspired by the 2017 Women's March. Wilson is an enthusiastic proponent (duh) but maintains there's still work to be done.
"There's still a stigma that is ingrained in minds of men, by their dads and grandfathers," she says. "It's challenged by the actual power of women on a larger scale, on a life scale. When men are afraid of the power of women—that's when they objectify them, and try to make themselves feel bigger and stronger. It's just wonderful to see the tables are turning a little bit towards powerful women standing up for their own selves."