Cape Breton songstress hits it big with Heart

Last Tuesday, Heart’s Canadian tour brought them to Kitchener’s Center in the Square theatre for a concert as legendary as the band itself.

Opening for the 1980s musicians was Carmen Townsend, a likewise Canadian with comparably commanding female vocals to match.
Coming from a small town in Cape Breton, NS, Townsend developed an early passion for music.

“Growing up in the country, our fun depended on the weather and when we couldn’t go outside we’d listen to my dad’s records,” Townsend reflected.
“I would definitely say classic rock [was a big influence] growing up,” she said. Around the 1990s Townsend started taking music seriously and “wanted to play guitar and sing and be in a rock band.” She cited Radiohead, Nirvana and Pearl Jam as big influences from this time.

Still, Townsend acquired her own genuine style which has assisted her in discovering new opportunities. “It’s always hard to follow your calling in life; it’s not always an easy road. It was a long haul for me driving all over the place, running out of money, breaking down on the side of the trans-Canada, just trying to get to the next gig.”

The dedication she put forth towards following her dream has definitely paid off, as she hit the road with Heart on Jan. 28. She says still remembers “seeing their videos on TV and lip singing their songs” as a little girl.

Townsend described the opportunity, saying, “This is really a life changing experience for me because two weeks ago I was touring in a Toyota Corolla in the middle of the winter and now I’m in this massive tour bus that sleeps nine people, playing for thousands of people every night.” She continued, “I don’t want it to end.”

But despite recent success, Townsend maintains her same down to earth attitude in referring to her future goals as a musician. “I just want to be happy and healthy playing music. Just being able to pay the bills is all I’m asking,” she laughed in a light-hearted trill – a contrast to the powerful sound heard on stage Tuesday evening.

Despite the suggestively reserved title of her opening song “Sweet Little Bird,” the piece possessed a resonating power which filled the stage even though only Townsend and her acoustic guitar were present.

It was a refreshing surprise, following the polite welcoming of the audience to her “dream come true.”

Townsend followed up with several, self-written tunes from her album Waitin’ and Seein’ and ended with her first single “Start All Over” to the fervent applause of a middle-aged audience, as they waited for the sound of their youth to come through the music of the main act, Heart. And they were not disappointed as Heart graced the stage to the opening chords of “Cook with Fire” and the audience stood, head banging in a slightly less aggressive manner than the band.

Heart played such popular hits as “These Dreams,” “What About Love,” “Alone,” “Crazy on You” and others from the 1970s straight through to their new material.

Founding member Nancy Wilson commented on the audience’s “mixed response to the 80s because if you were there, you’re glad you remember them at all.”

But Heart remembered, engaging the audience with the decade’s style and sound until the last exaggerated strum of their electric guitars.

Townsend said it best in suggesting that, like herself, they were all “rock and rollers at Heart.”