April 7, 2017 Ann Wilson of Heart Amazes The Space At Westbury, NY 3-30-17
Back in the late ’70s, and again in the mid ’80s, Heart songs could be heard all over mainstream radio stations. Over four decades since their formation, they are now considered one of the greatest Rock-n-Roll bands of all-time, but how did they get here? Well, through several lineup changes, and some down periods, the band has always been anchored by the talents of Ann Wilson as the lead singer and her sister, Nancy Wilson, as guitarist. Debuting at a time when the Rock industry was mostly male dominated, the Wilson sisters took the world by storm with their brand of Hard Rock when debuting in 1976 with Dreamboat Annie. An album which reached number seven on the Billboard 200 list, selling over one million copies, Heart would soon become a fixture in Rock-n-Roll over the next decade.
Battling through tough times upon the dawn of the ’80s, Heart survived it all, going on to becoming even more successful with the release of 1985’s self-titled album, 1987’s Bad Animals, and 1990’s Brigade. Since then, Heart has been going strong touring, releasing music, and, in 2013, deservingly becoming members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Releasing their sixteenth studio album, Beautiful Broken, in 2016, followed by a summer of touring alongside Cheap Trick and Joan Jett, 2017 brings something new for Ann and Nancy Wilson. A surprise to many, the sisters decided it was time to take a break to explore other avenues. While some speculate as to why, the bottomline is, both remain very active as Nancy Wilson builds a new band in the form of Blues Hard Rock outfit Roadcase Royale and Ann Wilson goes out on the road simple under the title Ann Wilson of Heart.
Embarking on a 20-date solo tour, Ann Wilson kicked it all off on March 8th at the Moore Theatre in her Seattle hometown. Since then, the trek moved on to Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia, Englewood, NJ and New Orleans, before landing down in Westbury, New York on Thursday, March 30th. Hosting a night at the The Space, a premier Long Island venue, the intimate concert hall converted from an old movie house proved to be perfect for the evening’s events. Drawing a crowd of fans of all ages, excitement was in the air as everyone waited to see exactly what Wilson had in store for them.
Without an opener, the show quickly took off when Wilson, Andy Stoller on bass (the Ann Wilson Thing member for two years) as well as Denny Fongheiser on drums (Heart member in the 1990’s for two years) took the stage. From the moment she walked out, no one could deny that Wilson looked and sounded amazing. In fact, no one could suspect anything was wrong, even though Wilson immediately apologized to the audience for having a slight cold. Regardless of being under the weather, her vocals, strong as ever, did not disappoint. Even after all these years, she still had the impressive ability to hit those rockin’ high notes.
As for the song selection, the setlist featured a combination of Heart songs, covers from very well known artists, and several tracks from Ann Wilson’s two EP albums, 2015’s The Ann Wilson Thing #1 and 2016’s The Ann Wilson Thing #2. Kicking it all off with a rendition of The Who’s “The Real Me,” they soon transitioned into the hit “Barracuda.” An excellent second choice, it most certainly got the crowd going as they promptly began to sing along. As a follow up, they went into another Heart classic, “Crazy on You.” Starting out with Wilson singing the intro a capella, instruments came in thereafter, slower and more acoustic than the original fast-paced edition. A prelude of what was to come, Wilson and company kept it acoustic with a beautiful version of “What About Love,” which had everyone’s full attention.
Changing up the mood, the band took the feeling into a different direction with Wilson proclaiming they were going to play something, “a little bit more sinful.” By channeling her inner Elvis Presley, she then graced the audience with the King’s 1958 song “One Night.” Providing a visual, in the backdrop, fans eyes gazed upon images of couples cuddling and kissing as the song conveys a message of being good, but letting one’s bad side come out to play once in awhile. Going into more original music, Wilson’s 2016 “Anguish” filled the air with more passion tones. Providing more insight, Wilson confessed it was about her desire to see her love again while being forced to spend time away from him. All very sincere and touching, it was amazing how the vocalist was able to open up and talk about such personal details about her life in front of so many people.
Concluding the first portion of the show with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” after a short break, Wilson and company returned with the 2012 Heart song “A Million Miles.” A faster paced track, the energy in the room began to pick up as they flowed into Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People,” complete with a colorful mix of backing vocals. Having everyone cheering with excitement, The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” cover was spot on and Wilson’s vocals continued to shine late into the night.
Turning to a more serious tone, Wilson touched on the current state of the people in the USA during these challenging times. Without getting political, she said, “We are blessed and shouldn’t give up because we have friends and people in our lives.” Words of wisdom, it was a perfect segway into Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.” From here, Wilson continued to offer up surprises with The Animals’ “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place, as well as “The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Love Reign Over Me,” but not before sneaking in Heart favorite, 1986’s “Alone.”
Going on to gift a double encore featuring the timeless Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” and Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way,” it all came to a dramatic conclusion with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and Ray Charles’ “The Danger Zone.” Bidding the audience a farewell one final time, Wilson’s performance was as strong as ever, and the audience appreciated every minute of it all.
Dancing and singing along throughout the show, the mix of music offered by Wilson was diverse with Rock and Blues history. Balanced between adored Heart songs, solo pieces, and covers, most of all, Wilson was engaging and personable. While most are used to seeing Heart in a stadium, the night in a smaller venue created a storyteller like atmosphere that was unmistakeable. While the tour was initially scheduled to wind down on April 7th it has gone so well that Wilson recently extended it through early July, so do not miss this special and intimate concert experience.
Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography