Just a few days ago I had the privilege of watching four women (and the men that support them) do what they were born to do: make incredible music. The Queens of Sheba Tour came to Toronto, bringing Heart, Joan Jett and the Mandevilles to the Sony Centre Stage, and it was one of the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever.
When you look at the lineups of some of the world’s largest music festivals, hell, even some of the festivals that pass through our fair city, there is a distinct lack of female presence, despite the very real fact that there are some insanely talented women making music right now, who have been making amazing music for years. The fact that the Queens of Sheba tour featured a full lineup of female fronted acts was enough of a sell for me. The fact that those acts were who they were sealed the deal. Despite the years between them all, these ladies represent the future of music, while also shaping the history of music as we know it today.
It was a delight to watch Ontario natives the Mandevilles warm up the crowd for the icons that would follow them. Stripped down to just an acoustic twosome, it was Serena Pryne’s unforgettable voice that stole the show. Raw, smokey and ever so powerful, you could hear the influences of singers like Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt come through as Serena sang her heart out. She was clearly giddy and thrilled to be onstage, performing ahead of acts she undoubtedly idolized as a budding musician, and that was so wonderful to behold.
Photographers weren’t allowed to shoot Joan Jett, but that actually ended up feeling more like a blessing than a curse. I’d never seen Jett, despite being a fan since first discovering the concept of music, so getting to watch her, uninterrupted, for a full set, was an amazing experience. Accompanied by the infamous and incredible Blackhearts, Jett reminded us why the tour had Queens in the title, because that’s just what she is – a true Queen of Rock n’ Roll. The singer exuded charisma, passion and pure love of music from the stage, song after song. From Runaways era classics like “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild” (the first song she ever wrote) to the song that made her famous like “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” and “Bad Reputation,” every song was a crowd-pleaser. Jett also treated fans to material from her upcoming album as well as a few iconic covers, closing the set with Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday people,” the cherry on top of an unforgettable performance.
If the world was ruled by Queens, there would be collaboration and harmony everywhere, just like on this incredible tour. Queens of rock in their own right, Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart picked up where Jett left off that night. Like the act before them, Heart treated fans to an eclectic set that ensured that everyone in the Sony Centre would go home happy and fulfilled. They teased fans with a few songs from their upcoming album, including an song originally written by R&B artist Ne-Yo that Nancy admitted to scooping up when the folks behind Empire dragged their heels on it. Aside from these new tracks, the rest of the set was exactly what you would hope for and expect from Heart. They played songs from every era of their storied career, from “Magic Man” and “Barracuda” to “Heartless” and “Crazy On You.” After a 12 song set, the Wilsons and company didn’t keep fans waiting long before returning to the stage and launching into a series of Led Zeppelin covers. While my all time favorite “Battle of Evermore” was not played, all sadness was erased by their epic rendition of “Immigrant Song,” Ann’s insane voice more than up for the vocally challenging piece.
Heart is a band that I’ll see again and again, until they stop making music or I stop being able to hear it. It was amazing to see them live once again.
*all photos by Nadia Elkharadly