HEART's ANN And NANCY WILSON Reflect On 'Stairway To Heaven' Performance At KENNEDY CENTER HONORS

April 11, 2024

On Wednesday, April 10, HEART's Ann and Nancy Wilson stopped by "The Howard Stern Show" and joined Howard and co-host Robin Quivers for an interview and live, in-studio concert. During the chat, the Wilson sisters spoke about their now-legendary performance at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012 when delivered an epic rendition of LED ZEPPELIN's "Stairway To Heaven". They were joined by Jason Bonham, son of original drummer John and the drummer for LED ZEPPELIN's 2007 reunion show. Their version of the track gradually grew to include a string section, a horde of backup singers and the Joyce Garrett Youth Choir. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones sat watching from the balcony and were visibly moved, particularly Plant, who had tears welling up in his eyes.

"[Plant was] emotional for a bunch of reasons," Ann said, theorizing it also had something to do with watching Jason play the drums. "[Jason] was probably just a little kid running around at their band practice when they were writing 'Stairway To Heaven'."

Ann and Nancy told Howard they didn't even know which song they'd perform when they agreed to participate. Even so, the sisters needed only one rehearsal to get it just right. Nancy recalled the soundcheck, explaining it was so freezing cold out that day that her fingers needed time to warm up before she could play the guitar. "They offered to shadow [the guitar part] for me … but I was, like, 'No, no, no, no — my hands are just cold. It's okay,'" she said.

"It had to be the real deal, like we do," Nancy continued before vividly recalling the moment she and her sister took the stage: "We looked at each other and took a very deep breath. [It was] like a Zen gathering of yourself, centering and focusing. You just can't screw that up."

"You have to be absolutely present in the moment," Ann agreed.

Most people thought the performance was perfection, but when Plant and Page gave their review that night at a star-studded celebratory dinner, the sisters weren't sure what to expect. "Plant let us know that he usually hated people's covers of 'Stairway', but he liked that one," Ann recalled.

"He said, 'You guys pulled it off',' Nancy added. "And then Jimmy Page goes, 'Wow, you nailed the guitar part. [It was] really great.' I was, like, 'Oh my God,' … I could die.'"

The current members of HEART feature Nancy Wilson (rhythm, lead and acoustic guitar, backing and lead vocals),Ann Wilson (lead vocals and flute),Ryan Wariner (lead and rhythm guitar),Ryan Waters (guitars),Paul Moak (guitars, keyboards and backing vocals),Tony Lucido (bass and backing vocals) and Sean Lane (drums and bike).

Last December, HEART played its first three concerts in more than four years — in Highland, California, at Greater Palm Springs in Palm Desert, California, and in Seattle, Washington,.

Prior to HEART's December 27, 2023 show in Highland, the band's last performance took place in October 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

HEART will return to the road for the first time in five years this spring on the "Royal Flush" tour. The trek, which will kick off April 20 in Greenville, South Carolina, will feature CHEAP TRICK as support on most of the North American leg, while SQUEEZE will open a handful of HEART's summer European dates. HEART will also join DEF LEPPARD and JOURNEY for summer stadium shows in Cleveland, Toronto and Boston and will make an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival on April 28.

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