Ann Wilson Merges The Present With The Past At The Rose Music Center
As I walked in to the Rose Music Center to see Ann Wilson, I fully expected to hear a set of Heart hits. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was going to be very, very wrong. Ann Wilson, along with her sister Nancy, are not only one of the best known sister acts, but are one of the best known musical duos in the last four decades of rock, who rose to stardom in the mid-seventies atop solid rock numbers like “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man”. Ann and Heart further sailed through the eighties scoring hits “Alone”, “Who Will You Run To” and “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You”. Ann also forever left her mark, and was the pinnacle of every prom and every other high school dance in 1984, pairing with Mike Reno of Loverboy and giving us the classic “Almost Paradise” from Footloose.
Mike Reno and Ann Wilson – Almost Paradise Video
With no opening act, Ann and her band, Craig Bartock, also of Heart, on guitar, Andy Stoller, also of The Ann Wilson Thing, on bass, Denny Fongheiser, also of Heart, on Drums and Daniel Walker on keys, opened the show with a cover of The Who’s “The Real Me”. At no point did this cover, or any of the others we would eventually hear, sound like anything other than Ann Wilson, so much so that it could have been her own composition. The stuttering opening riff of “Barracuda” kicked off one of the best known, and earliest of Heart’s hits, and saw Ann’s throaty purrs turn into growling primal screams as she opened up and let loose, making this song sound current as opposed to being forty years old this year. Craig then pulled out a beautiful Taylor acoustic guitar and we were treated to a softer version of “Crazy On You”, preparing for another soft rocker “What About Love”. Next up was what Ann described as a blues number about being wide awake and here, “Fool No More”.
Ann Wilson – What About Love/Tall Dark Handsome Stranger
I have been a fan of Elvis since the first time I remember hearing music, and rarely, if ever, do I like to hear covers of his songs. With that being said, when Ann dedicated “One Night” to the memory of The King, she absolutely nailed it! She also joked that he was backstage. If only that had been true, I imagine that a duet between Elvis and Ann would be incredible. “Anguish”, which Ann described as a song she wrote when she had to leave her love an go on tour was up next and was an incredibly hard rocking/blues number that may be the heaviest song she played all night. Serving up another cover, this time “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix, was a stunning follow up and saw Craig nailing Jimi’s guitar note for note. As this song came to a close, Ann said they were going to take a fifteen minute break.
After the short intermission, Ann jumped right into Heart’s “A Million Miles” before moving into Yes’s “I’ve Seen All Good People” and then The Black Crowe’s “She Talks To Angels”. Ann then talked about how she has seen and heard people while out on the road currently that are just unsure about what the future holds in the current climate of the world. To answer their concerns she performed “Don’t Give Up”. Taking us way back, but still making the songs sound current, she tackled The Animal’s “We’ve Gotta’ Get Out Of This Place” and The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Bringing the tempo back down a little, one of Ann’s better known vocals “Alone” followed. This song really allowed Ann to just let go and belt out the lyrics during the chorus. “Love Reign O’er Me” by The Who ended the set.
After a short lull in which the crowd was going completely ecstatic, Ann and company returned for a couple of mellow numbers, “For What It’s Worth” from Buffalo Springfield and “Ain’t Know Way” from Aretha Franklin. During the latter, Ann encouraged audience members to get up and slow dance with their significant other, many did, which I must say, is a first for me to see. Ann then thanked everyone for coming out and once again left the stage, this time the crowd was twice as loud as before, begging for more.
And more we received. As they came out, they broke into one of my favorite old songs, reaching way back to 1956, Ann broke into the voodoo-infused love song “I Put A Spell On You” by the amazing Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. While singing into a crystal ball, storm clouds rolled in and the winds whipped up, blowing heavily through the venue, nature providing a more spectacular effect to this song than anything Ann could have staged, making the performance eerie and mystical all at the same time. The final, and truly final song of the night, was Ray Charles’ “Danger Zone”, a song that Ann described as being one her mother used to sing to her and her sisters. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way for Ann to end this show.
Ann Wilson at The House of Blues 2017
I have seen Heart before, and seeing Ann on her own gave me a much better appreciation for her not only as a vocalist, but as an overall artist. Performing solo gave Ann the chance to not only play some of the songs that she is known for, but also embellish and pay homage to songs that have inspired and have meaning to her, and in doing so she brings some of these classics to people that may have never heard them without seeing this show. Letting loose with her vocals, Ann can go from a quiet whisper to a piercing scream and back again with little effort, proving that she is one of the best, if not the best, female vocalists of this, or any other decade.
Ann Wilson at the Rose Music Center