Our fearless leader Josh falls into this astro sign, being born under the sun of June 18th. Ann Wilson, of Heart fame, was born on June 19th. Say what you will about astrology, but I was in the company of some artistic people at last night’s show at the Uptown Theater.
Monday night’s show was somewhat of an intimate setting: Instead of a bunch of tatted up people in band t-shirts swarming the GA section in front of the stage, we were treated to a seated crowd in summer casual attire.
Wilson opened the first half of her set with The Real Me, a cover from The Who. Following her rousing rendition of Pete Townsend’s 1973 classic, she went right into 2 songs from her original band Heart. Barracuda was played first. One would expect the live version of a song to always be sub-par when compared to the original, but Ann Wilson proved she still has the vocal talent to make Barracuda stand above the original. Following Barracuda was Crazy on You, which served up as much power as the last song. Wilson then sang a song made famous by Heart, though still a cover What About Love by Toronto, proving to the audience she still had the vocal range to sing just about anything.
The next few songs slowed down in pace, but not in intensity. Wilson turned her sights onto an original piece titled Fool No More. This song was inspired by classic blues, and certainly had the guitar chops to back it up. Following that was an Elvis Presley cover of One Night, which had more than a few people dancing cheek to cheek. The King would have to take a back seat to Wilson, though, as another original song, Anguish, had a few of the backing band members dawning new instruments. Bassist Andy Stoller switched to a lap steel guitar. Guitarist Craig Bartock (who also tours with Heart, taking over for Howard Leese) stuck to his trusty axe, while keyboardist Dan Walker played bass guitar. And of course, Denny Fongheiser on drums kept things moving right along. The first half of the set was ended with Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix.
Following a brief intermission, Wilson started the second half with a trippy rendition of A Million Miles by Heart. A poignant performance of Yes’s I’ve Seen Good People was after that. Wilson didn’t get too preachy or political, but instead, asked us to get out of our bubbles and see each other’s point of view. Wilson then switched to a stripped version of She Talks to Angels by the Black Crowes, where Keyboardist Dan Walker played the accordion, Craig Bartock and Andy Stoller both donned acoustic guitars. Wilson then moved on to cover Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel, We’ve Gotta Get Outta This Place by the Animals, Alone (another cover, which Heart made their own), and Won’t Get Fooled Again and Love, Reign O’er Me by The Who.
Always a performer to out-do herself, Wilson returned to the stage after throngs of fans led her to an Encore performance. For What it’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield captured another subdued political charged spirit to the performance, while Ain’t No Way, by Aretha Franklin, and I Put a Spell on You turned up the heat in the audience.
A cake and flowers was brought out for Ann, who was celebrating a birthday in our fair city, and the audience serenaded the veteran vocalist with “Happy Birthday” The set was closed by an emotional cover of The Danger Zone by Ray Charles.
I’ll be straight up: This is a show that I would have never intended on viewing. Further complicating my stance before the show was knowing that Ann Wilson of Heart would be doing a bunch of cover songs. I was more than pleasantly surprised, when I finally sat down and started watching the show, that Ann Wilson has what it takes to perform virtually any song. The set list was carefully cultivated to really show off Wilson’s vocal range, and talent. She was backed by a band who could perform a number of different genres with mastery and style. If this show happens to be coming to your neck of the woods, go do yourself a favor and witness a legend.
Words by Dallas Hessel
Photos by Josh Chaikin