Sell-out crowd goes ‘Crazy On’ Heart tribute band
By Larry Coffey
I recall telling school friends about an incredible new rock band led by two Canadian sisters living and performing in Seattle. I was a 16-year-old senior at Knoxville’s West High School. Rock & roll was primarily a man’s world.
I had purchased Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie” album over the weekend. Ann Wilson’s “Crazy on You” vocals made me crazy on her. It was love at first listen.
A 40-year military career sent me everywhere Heart wasn’t. So, I never saw my beloved Ann Wilson live. I did, however, experience the next best thing May 15 when Nashville-based “Barracuda, America’s Heart Tribute,” performed before a sold-out crowd at Knoxville’s Open Chord.
Barracuda lead vocalist Shareen Ann portrays Ann Wilson. Dare I compare her driving, dramatic soprano vocals to Wilson’s? I’m no professional music critic, but yes.
Music critics and listeners alike describe performances giving them chills. Now I get it, having literally felt those chills as Shareen sang “Crazy on You.”
“Wow,” I thought. “That’s a first.”
Shareen Ann, Barracuda manager and sound man Doug Brace, started the band as “Back to Avalon” in late 2017. Several years and a few band name changes later, they’ve settled on "Barracuda,-America’s Heart Tribute."
“I started this band out of my passion for Heart's music,” Shareen said. “We knew they had taken a break from touring. We wanted to pick up where they left off and keep it going, so their incredible music continues to be heard, loved and appreciated!”
A Rochester, N.Y., native, Shareen cut her musical teeth with her church’s worship team. Her professional music career began singing radio-commercial jingles and recording songwriter demos that writers use to market their work to recording artists and bands.
Originally a country artist, Shareen moved to Nashville in 2000 for more opportunities and continued recording songwriter demos, performing in several bands before starting "Barracuda-America's Heart Tribute."
Powerful lead vocalists like Shareen Ann often succeed backed by an average to good band. That’s not the case with "Barracuda." The musicians - all of them - were amazing.
Lead guitarist Chris R. is one of those musicians. His 35 years of experience are evident in his playing, showmanship and presence. He’s good – very good – but never in your face. He said Eddie Van Halen was his greatest influence. “It was like he was letting you in on the biggest party around,” Chris said.
When the spotlight turned to Chris, he flashed a warm, welcoming, Van Halen-like smile, letting his creative riffs and power chords do his talking and letting his audience in on the biggest party around. And they loved it.
Open Chord’s packed house included local radio personality J.J. Jeffries from Knoxville’s 104.9 Lake FM. With 40-plus in the radio and live music industries, he said he’s very critical of bands.
“This is an incredibly well-crafted band,” he said after the first of two sets. “Their stage presence is amazing. There’s no sign of egos or competition. I love the way they share the stage with one another. The lead vocalist is unbelievable. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that’s Ann Wilson on that stage. This is how professional musicians are supposed to sound.”
Jeffries said Lake FM’s ‘70s- and ‘80s-focused programming includes Heart’s music and he intends to talk about Barracuda’s performance when the next Heart song comes up in the rotation.
So, what’s my verdict?
I admit to feeling no teenage heart flutters during Shareen Ann's “Crazy on You” vocals, but she and the entire band were crazy good! Do yourself a favor. Go see them! You’ll be singing, “Ooohh, barra-barracuda…”
Larry Coffey is a retired Navy journalist who worked 40 years as a newspaper and TV reporter, and radio and night club DJ and MC.