Ann Wilson is best-known as the lead singer and songwriter of the classic rock band Heart. Many consider her as one of the greatest female vocalists in the history of rock music.
Heart was formed in the early '70 by Wilson and her guitarist sister Nancy. During the band's long history, it has had a number of different lineups--the only constant being the Wilson sisters. Over the course of its career, Heart has sold in excess of 35 million records worldwide. Album sales in the United States alone include over 22 million units. The band reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Albums Chart numerous times during its long and storied career. Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Following the release of Heart's Beautiful Broken CD (Concord Bicycle Music, 2016) and its subsequent tour, both Ann and Nancy Wilson decided that they wanted to work outside of Heart to try some new things. Nancy is working with a band called Roadcase Royale and Ann is concentrating on her solo project. Hopefully, Heart will continue. However, both are taking this time to stretch their musical creativity.
On a cool late March evening, while battling a slight cold, Ann Wilson and her band commanded the Stage at the Space at Westbury. The show which was billed as Ann Wilson of Heart featured two distinct sets. This first of which provided Wilson's fans with the dose of Heart that many had come to specifically see and hear. Wilson delivered excellent, versions of rock classics "Barracuda" and "What About Love." The version of "Crazy on You" was the more acoustic arrangement that was first recorded on The Battle of Evermore EP (Capitol Records, 1993) released by the Lovemongers (Ann and Nancy Wilson's side original side project). During set one, Wilson also included two solo offerings--"Fool No More" (co-written with her guitarist Craig Bartok) and "Anguish" (about missing the love of her life while on tour). Both songs make excellent additions to Wilson's canon. The first set also included two songs that were almost a harbinger of things to come--the opening tune, the Who's "The Real Me" and a set-closing cover of Jimi Hendrix' "Manic Depression." Wilson nailed both! Despite her cold, Wilson was in fine voice and spirits. Early in the evening she addressed the crowd and said, "Thank you all. Welcome! I am Ann Wilson and this is a band that so far has no name, so if you have any ideas..." She also explained that her cold was actually working in her favor and was making her vocals sound better.
It was during set two that Wilson really showed her chops. The entire set featured choice classic rock covers and some fantastic jams by her excellent backing band. After opening with the Heat song "A Million Miles," the set featured the Who's "Won't get Fooled Again" and "Love Reign Over Me," Yes' "I've Seen All Good People" (during which Wilson's vocals eerily approximated those of Jon Anderson), a rocking take on the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," a passionate rendition of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" and the Black Crowes' bluesy "She Talks To Angels." They each sound great and are well-suited to her powerful voice. The set also included a powerful version of Heart's chart-topping power ballad "Alone."
At the end of the set, Wilson and the band took their bows and exited the stage to a standing ovation. The audience remained on its feet cheering, clapping and begging for more. After a moment that to some must have seemed like an eternity, the singer and band returned to the stage. The four song set of encored dove deep into Wilson's influences and featured covers of songs by Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth"), Aretha Franklin ("Ain't No Way), Screamin' Jay Hawkins (a jazzy, bluesy take on "I Put A Spell On You") and Ray Charles ("The Danger Zone").
This performance was all about Ann Wilson. Yes, there were Heart songs. Yes, many in the crowd were there to see her perform her or her favorite Heart songs (specifically one annoying audience member who screamed for "Magic Man" at the conclusion of every song). But it was the performance that was given that allowed the audience members to really see inside Wilson's soul. The classic rock, R&B and blues covers were well-chosen. The banter with the audience and the band was like a conversation with a friend. The solo tunes were well-crafted and personal. Wilson opened herself up to the audience in a way that she couldn't have done during a Heart concert. This performance was all about who Ann Wilson really is. It was about her loves, her life and her influences. And for two hours on a cool Spring evening, everyone in the crowd felt as though they knew her personally.
Photographs by Christine Connallon
An Wilson's March 30, 2017 Set List
Set 1: The Real Me; Barracuda; Crazy on You; Fool No More; What About Love; Anguish; Manic Depression
Set 2: A Million Miles; I've Seen All Good People; She Talks to Angels; Don't Give Up; We've Gotta Get Out of This Place; Won't Get Fooled Again; Alone; Love, Reign O'er Me
Encores: For What It's Worth: Ain't No Way; I Put a Spell on You; The Danger Zone