Ann Wilson – The Keswick Theatre – Glenside, PA – April 6, 2017
Since her day job with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group Heart is on “temporary” hiatus, Ann Wilson hit the road with her own band to share her own musical journey. (From some of her stage patter at the show, Wilson does not appear to be in any hurry to get back to her famous band.)
The “Ann Wilson of Heart” tour is a little bit of Heart, a little bit of her Ann Wilson Thing solo project, and a whole heaping helping of classic rock covers – favorite songs, some of which Wilson has recorded, some she has just loved for a long time.
And it seriously rocked.
There has been no question for decades that Ann Wilson has possessed one of the great female rock voices of our lifetime. To hear her wrap those masterful vocals around the music of The Who, Yes, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, The Buffalo Springfield, The Black Crowes and Ray Charles was a treat for this near capacity crowd.
Wilson and her tight band (made up of at least a couple of Heart touring musicians) showed the change in tone from the very beginning, roaring into a hearty cover of The Who’s “The Real Me.”
Then she slipped into the expected songs, doing a mini-Heart block. First up, she wailed and soared through the angry music biz indictment “Barracuda.” She followed this up with a surprisingly subdued version of the raucous love song “Crazy On You,” in which she and the band slowed down the tempo to change into a more desperate ballad (though in the middle, they briefly returned to the normal breakneck pace of the song.) Finally, she did an even slower version of the mid-80s hit “What About Love,” which was a pretty low-key song to begin with.
After this spurt of songs, the Heart portion of the night was pretty much over, with only the album track “A Million Miles” and the classic single “Alone” popping up later in the set. During this grouping of songs, she also did a couple of her solo tracks, the bluesy “Fool No More” and the tortured and stomping love song for her husband, “Anguished.”
It was at this point that the covers took things over. Starting with a swooning cover of Elvis Presley’s “One Night with You,” which she described as the first song that ever made her feel a little tingly. She closed the first half of the show with a smashing version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Manic Depression,” then the band hopped off stage for a short intermission.
They returned with all blasters going, shredding the classic Yes tune “Your Move” with joy and reverence. Wilson then shifted gears again, doing a heartbreaking take on The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels,” and a simply stunning cover of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up,” which she sort of indirectly dedicated to the people who had been dumbstruck by the election of Donald Trump. (She never mentioned him by name, but she made the point fairly clear.)
The group picked up the pulse soon afterwards, sprinting through the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and two more Who songs, a boisterous “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and a swirling, crescendoing take on “Love Reign O’er Me.”
Slipped between those two Who tunes was the final Heart tune, a sweet and heartfelt version of the love song “Alone.” The band then reconstructed the Buffalo Springfield’s hippie anthem “For What It’s Worth,” giving the song a tougher more modern edge – certainly taking the most liberties with the song of any of the tunes they had revisited so far.
Then she let her soulful side out to play, closing the night out with a gorgeous version of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” and an encore of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ voodoo-vibed “I Put a Spell on You” and Ray Charles’ “The Danger Zone.”
Ann Wilson’s solo gig certainly allowed the singer to explore some back alleys and byways that she can’t always pull off on Heart, and it was interesting to see her follow her passion. We’ll have to wait to find out if these gigs will be a nice palate cleanser for her between Heart arena tours, or if this is the new road that this masterful singer finds herself on for good.
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 8, 2017.
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Photos by Jay S. Jacobs © 2017