For tireless troupers Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Puyallup Fair was close enough to call home.
“I can’t tell you how good it is to be home,” Ann Wilson told the boisterous crowd of about 10,000 Wednesday night.
The Wilsons and their band — featuring Ben Smith, Mike Inez (of Alice in Chains), Craig Bartok and Debbie Shain — put on the kind of high-powered, hit-packed concert one normally sees at a place like KeyArena or the Tacoma Dome. The 85-minute show included such hits as “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Straight On” and “Barracuda” — songs that made concertgoers stand up and holler.
Though it may have been surprising to some that Heart would play the Puyallup Fair at all, it isn’t unusual for the venerable fair to attract high-quality, high-profile acts, if not show business legeds. Over the last two decades, the fair has booked everyone from Bob Hope to Bob Dylan — and plenty of rising stars (such as New Kids on the Block in their prime). In 1993, Frank Sinatra was the opening-day headliner, a booking that still seems amazing today.
It’s also worth noting that the fair boasts a stage and sound system that rival those at The Gorge.
As fair crowds often do, concertgoers stomped their feet and banged on the metal bleachers, producing a thunderous roar that might be called the grandstand stomp — all amid the pervasive aromas of fried potatoes and grilled hamburgers.
Nancy Wilson strolled out while a pre-show recording of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” played on the loudspeakers. Then sister Ann Wilson and the Heart entourage opened the main set with “Barracuda,” “Never” and one of the band’s earliest hits of the ’70s, “Kick It Out.”
Ann played flute on “Love Alive” and then rolled out her soaring, operatic vocals for “Mistral Wind” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” before slowing it down again with the wistful, romantic “These Dreams.”
The main set closed with a stratospheric “Crazy on You,” which the crowd greeted with shouts and handclaps. And then at 9:10, it was over. Too bad there weren’t a few more songs, but Heart apparently wasn’t in the mood to outdo Steve Miller’s curfew-be-damned, marathon performance last summer.
Last year, I interviewed Ann and Nancy Wilson about the influence Led Zeppelin has had on their careers for the book “Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin: The Illustrated History of the Heaviest Band of All Time” by Jon Bream. The sisters talked about seeing the legendary band perform at Green Lake’s Aqua Follies theater in the late ’60s. “We were shocked at stunned — and changed forever,” Nancy Wilson said.