Each year Toronto’s Budweiser Stage manages to gather up a number of high profile acts to play for the summer. From country favourites to rock icons, it’s very rare to see a bad year at this venue. But this year, something is missing; the lack of female representation. Out of the 52 shows scheduled this year, only six women are headliners. This meaning that it’s just them at the top of the bill, not sharing a spot with another act. In a time where women are still pressing for equality, it’s frustrating to still see a lack of representation.
This is not to say it’s the venue’s fault. You can look at any other amphitheatre in North America this year and you’ll likely see a similar trend. Thankfully we’re moving away from that, but we still have a ways to go. Despite this, it was incredibly refreshing on Sunday night to see an all-female line up featuring 70s rock band Heart, as well as Sheryl Crow and Elle King.*
The venue was packed with all sorts of age groups, from people who grew up with Heart to some who said they discovered them through playing Guitar Hero. People were dancing in the aisles and cheers-ing their beers to what would be a fantastic night.
Sheryl Crow kicked off her set with just her, her guitar and her backing band as she played some new songs off her upcoming album, while also dabbling into some of her greatest hits. As soon as she played songs like Soak Up the Sun and If It Makes You Happy, the audience practically jumped out of their seats to dance and sway along. Finishing her set with Everyday is a Winding Road, the audience gave Crow a standing ovation.
Heart opened their set with Rockin’ Heaven Down before jumping right into Magic Man, two fierce tracks back-to-back that showcased sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson’s showmanship, and making sure they had the audience’s full attention.
In the middle of the set, the Wilson sisters did a series of covers: Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer, Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, and Yes’ Your Move. An interesting choice seeing as most bands will only do one cover at best, as opposed to having multiple together, let alone grouped together so closely. Nevertheless, they performed beautiful renditions of them, with a light show for Floyd and Nancy taking lead on The Boxer.
The show continued with deep cuts like Back to Avalon and Dog and Butterfly, but they also smashed out some of the hits like Crazy On You and Alone, which electrified the venue.
The encore saw Heart play a cover of Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, where the whole band gathered in the centre of the stage and played their respective instrument before launching into the guitar shredding Barracuda. Finally, ending the night with What About Love.
More acts from the 70s and 80s are touring again, and for some, it’s challenging. Their voices don’t hold up, some look bored, and others are so obviously doing it for the money. But Heart has just that-heart. Ann Wilson can still wail like she did in the 70s, and Nancy is still killing it on the guitar, barely having to look at the chords she’s playing. Before this tour, the Wilson sisters had a bit of a falling out, and it was uncertain what the future of Heart would look like. But after Sunday’s show, Heart’s future very much lives on, and with that, they’re paving the way for a legacy of kick-ass women in music.
*The writer did not get to see Elle King