On her current tour—which stopped at New York City’s Sony Hall July 26 and comes to Chicago August 2—Ann Wilson deftly balances the well-chosen covers that dominate her three solo albums, including her fine new “Fierce Bliss” CD, with classic cuts from Heart, the band with which she and sister Nancy have made their mark since the mid-’70s. (Now on hiatus, as both sisters have released solo albums in the past year, Heart is supposed to return to touring in 2023.)
Opening with the vigorous one-two punch of Heart’s “Even It Up” and “Straight On,” Wilson and her (all-male) band spent the rest of the 90-minute concert alternating between excellent covers—like their powerful versions of Jeff Buckley’s “Forget Her,” the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” and Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs”—with classic Heart hits like “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda.” But it was in the deeper cuts of the evening where Wilson’s still-formidable voice rang out most strongly. (Although she’s now 72, Wilson’s voice remains an imposing instrument.)
On two originals from “Fierce Bliss,” the pounding rocker “Greed” and the stately “Black Wing,” Wilson sang impressively and with little strain. (It’s instructive to watch her while singing: unlike many rock vocalists, she makes it look effortless, even when hitting the high notes that she can still often reach.) And the lone Heart deep cut, the brooding, mystical “Mistral Wind,” allowed her to alternate between lung-shredding power and exquisite delicacy.
Queen’s “Love of My Life” also brought out Wilson’s ethereal side, as she made her own a song that most vocalists might cede to Freddie Mercury. But Wilson has never shied away from covering songs that others might hesitate to tackle, like her majestic “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012.
And it was Zeppelin—one of Heart’s most obvious influences, as anyone who hears “Achilles’ Last Stand” whenever “Barracuda’s” drum track kicks in—that dominated the encores, as Wilson ran through her superb, singular takes on the mandolin-driven “Going to California” and the pummeling “Black Dog.” One might even go so far as to say that Wilson’s versions surpassed Robert Plant himself on thse songs. But that’s an argument for another day.
July 26, 2022
Sony Hall, New York City
August 2, 2022
AON Grand Ballroom, Chicago