When you’re the lead singer for one of the premier bands in rock history and you want to take a break, you go on tour singing some of your favorite cover songs. ANN WILSON of HEART did just that when she brought her current tour to The Bomb Factory where she only played a few of her own songs and covered some of rock’s classic hits and a few of her personal favorites.
After playing stadiums and large venues for so many years, Ann said she was craving something more intimate where she could reconnect with the fans, something that can’t be done with thousands of people in attendance. Everybody won as the always-sterling venue was scaled down to form an intimate setting. The seating was up close and personal, the acoustics were superb and the staff, as always, made everyone feel welcome.
The band walked onstage in the darkness and Ms. Wilson began singing “The Real Me” as the lights came on. She looked fit and happy in her red, white and blue jacket and danced as she nailed THE WHO cover. The crowd then jumped up and swayed for the well-known “Barracuda.” As she did all night, she put a slightly different spin on the classic rock staple and kept on dancing during Denny Bartok’s guitar solo.
Most didn’t recognize the 60’s rockin’ blues twist she put on “Crazy On You” until the refrain when they sang the well-known words to the different beat. Even though they didn’t realize what they were hearing at first, Ann’s dramatic soprano vocal range captivated the audience from the very first note.
The band stripped down their version of “What About Love,” starting with a BEACH BOYS intro and segueing into the raw version. They had fun with the different rendition as percussionist Denny Fongheiser pounded the congas as the song built up to a rousing crescendo before ending to a huge round of applause.
Wilson spoke of the satisfaction of this small tour and how being among the people was good for her soul. That led into a blues song she co-wrote with Denny, “Fool No More,” performed with a tremendous amount of emotion. Ann showed a twitching leg and an Elvis growl during the refrain of Presley’s “One Night With You” that she said “made me stir” as a kid.
A song from her second EP told of the passion she developed for her husband over time. “Anguish” highlighted bassist Andy Stoller playing the slide steel for this LED ZEPPELIN-sounding song. Wilson danced as the entire band shined on the JIMI HENDRIX hit, “Manic Depression.” Denny and keyboardist Dan Walker kept building the tempo as they closed out the first set with a jam session.
The group came back after a short break and immediately launched into “A Million Miles” from the HEART album Fanatic. Wilson came to the front of the stage in her pink and black ensemble and quickly made another connection with the crowd.
Her perfect pitch was far different for the YES cover of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and the audience roared in approval. Walker fervently playing the upbeat accordion matched the 60’s imagery showing on the background screen.
Ladies in the crowd danced for Ann’s stunning rendition of “She Talks To Angels,” which earned one of many standing ovations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Lyrics then became the focal point for “Don’t Give Up,” which she explained was personal for her at this time in her life.
The emotion exuding from her soul during this cathartic song was visible and keenly felt by all who knew the recent events she has experienced.
Another spirited version of “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” began with a screaming guitar intro and a thumping drum beat. Wilson made the song her own while still keeping the spirit of the original.
They took out the hard edge of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” to begin before kicking it into the ferocity for which THE WHO is well known. The fans and the band formed a give and take vibe during the classic before another standing ovation.
They played the No. 1 hit “Alone” much slower and concentrated on the poignant lyrics and Ann’s powerful voice. The audience looked on in amazement at how meaningful the song really was. Bartok began the distinctive opening of “Love, Reign O’er Me” to finish the impressive second set. A throbbing drum beat highlighted the middle of the song before the crowd cheered wildly as they left the stage,
The group came back after a mini-break to deliver a boogie-beat version of “For What It’s Worth.” Bongos thumped, guitars wailed and keys shrieked during a jam that included a ROLLING STONES-style “Woo Woo.”
They took a slow song from ARETHA FRANKLIN and Wilson made it her own using her voice as an instrument covering several octaves in “Ain’t No Way.”
They thanked the crowd again, but the fans cried for more. Their take on the SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS cover of “I Put A Spell On You” was that of a torch singer. Ann absolutely crushed the notes as very few singers can and the audience responded in kind. They finished the 20-song show with “The Danger Zone” by RAY CHARLES.
It wasn’t a typical closing number, but the passion and emotion of the deeply moving and personal tune made it an excellent choice. Another well-earned standing ovation cascaded through the venue as the band left the stage.
It’s difficult for someone of Ann’s stature and identity to a supergroup to put on an uncommon show. Wanting to connect with her fans meant going from arenas to smaller venues, which was her goal for this tour. She only played four HEART songs, two of her own and 14 covers that each had a meaning to her. With her amazing voice, she sang each one flawlessly and enjoyed herself immensely.
It still remains to be seen what will happen with her sister, but this is the chance to hear and closely connect with a superstar who has sold over 35 million albums. She continues the Ann Wilson Of Heart Tour through mid-August. You’ll be glad you went.
LIVE IMAGES: GUZPIX
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS