RIDGEFIELD — Make no mistake, The Ann Wilson Thing, the 2016 first solo tour featuring the voice of Heart, was not disappointing, even though hard core fans likely longed to hear even one song from the prolific classic rock band’s catalog.
The good news is, Heart devotees now have something to look forward to when Wilson hits the stage at The Ridgefield Playhouse on August 22 with her current tour which, she told The Newtown Bee, features a new package of cover songs, a couple of new original solo compositions, and a few Heart numbers that will be very familiar, even though they have been somewhat reworked for her new band.
Recent shows from the beginning of this Ann Wilson of Heart tour include major hits from her “old” band including “What About Love” (actually a Heart cover of a song originally recorded by the Canadian group Toronto), “Barracuda,” a powerful version of “Crazy On You,” and the frenetic “A Million Miles,” from Heart’s album Fanatic.
She is blending those among an eclectic selection of other hits from The Who, Peter Gabriel, Yes, The Black Crowes, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, and Buffalo Springfield, along with classics from Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin, all showcasing the powerful pipes and richly toned vocal stylings Wilson has been known for since she and her sister Nancy debuted Dreamboat Annie in 1976 and never looked back.
Coincidentally, on the morning of Wilson’s interview, The Bee was able to break the news to her about that seminal album being named among NPR’s new “Turning the Tables” celebration of the top 150 albums made by women, being ranked at a respectable 44 on the list.
According to an advance, the Ann Wilson of Heart Tour is simply the next step of Wilson’s journey. It’s the step that puts it all together.
Joining Wilson — not backing — are Craig Bartock on guitar (a Heart member for a dozen years, who also performed in The Ann Wilson Thing), Andy Stoller on bass (also The Ann Wilson Thing bassist), and Denny Fongheiser on drums and percussion (a member of Heart for two years during the 1990s).
“The stage is a magical place where I can be beautifully in and out of control, where I can build a fire and then jump into it,” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend known for her force-of-nature vocals. “The stage is where I have always lived; where I’ve expressed my deepest emotions and supreme joys.
“I suppose I am addicted to it,” Wilson continued. “I’ve never been much good at talking, but I can sing, and when I sing I connect with people in a much deeper, higher way.”
She said the tour was strategically named “to give people a point of recognition; to help people understand who I am and where I came from. Ann Wilson of Heart is what I have been preparing for all my life.
“The time is right, and I’m ready.”
Upon learning she was chosen among the ranks of female musicians for the “Turning the Tables” project, Wilson revealed that her Ridgefield audience will have a chance to hear material from Dreamboat Annie when she takes the stage on August 22.
“We’re doing ‘Crazy on You,’ but it’s a bit of a different version than I normally do,” Wilson said. “It’s got an a capella introduction, but I think that it’s one song that really stands the test of time.”
Coincidentally, Wilson also recently created and blogged a Top Ten list of her own favorite live albums, which included the classic Deep Purple concert disc Made In Japan.
“There’s a lot of cool stuff on that album, but I always used to like the version of ‘Highway Star’ with Ian Gillan,” she said.
Talking about surrounding herself with more Heart alumni on the current tour, Wilson singled out drummer Denny Fongheiser, saying, “He’s one who is able to go to more different places musically. He played on our album The Road Home. He’s a super sophisticated musician.
“On keyboards, I’ve brought on Dan Walker, who is from Seattle and he’s just brilliant,” she said. “He’s never been on a tour of this level before. So it’s all new for him. I told him when he joined to not be shy, just do whatever comes to you. And every night he just blows me away.”
Wilson said that she is about a third of the way in to creating brand-new material for a possible future solo album project.
“So far I’ve finished ‘Fool No More,’ ‘Anguish,’ and ‘Fighting For Life,’ and there are about three more that are done but I haven’t recorded them yet,” she said. “I think ‘Fighting For Life’ is my favorite to perform so far. It’s got a real coffeehouse groove to it, and because my guitarist, Craig Bartock, plays some really stunning acoustic guitar. It’s me singing in a different style — it’s not Ann turning it up to 11. It showcases a lot more of what i can do. I think it’s probably got some of the lowest notes in my range on that one, and a more gentle, sultry style, which I really appreciate getting to do.”
Wilson said the song was written for her husband Dean Wetter.
“It’s about a person who is just wide awake and mindful — almost like an anarchist. He walks through life and just lights up every room, so I had to write a song about that guy,” she said. “I think it’s gotten a little unhip to see yourself as vulnerable, to be head over heels in love. I see so much out there about being proud and stoic, and if somebody is in your life and crosses you, you’re just supposed to walk away. But that’s never going to be me… never. I’m absolutely a true romantic, always will be.”
As conversation turned to Wilson’s selection of new cover material for the new tour, she talked about beginning to crack the progressive rock genre by doing “Your Move,” the melodic intro to “All Good People,” one of the most popular songs from the group Yes.
“I’ll tell you the truth; the more progressive the song is, the harder it is to cover and really do it justice,” she said. “There’s a lot of deconstruction going on in progressive rock, and Yes is able to do stuff like ‘Close to the Edge,’ and the songs on Tales From Topographic Oceans, that are extremely complex and brilliant. You know, these are creations from a mechanical, mathematical mind. I would really like to cover more progressive material, I really would.”
Ann Wilson is best-known as the lead singer of Heart, but as a songwriter and lyricist, Ann Wilson has created a truly impressive body of work ("Crazy on You," "Barracuda," "Magic Man," "Dog & Butterfly," "Straight On," "Even it Up," "Mistral Wind," and many, many more).
However, her greatest gift, and first "calling" is singing. Her voice is considered to be among the best ever, with its vast range, amazing power and sheer musicality. It has inspired legions of great singers, across every genre of music.
EDGE spoke to Wilson recently about her current solo tour, which brings her to the Northeast over the next few weeks.
EDGE: When you started your career, how was the decision made to sing rock 'n' roll and not another genre?
Ann Wilson: I have always loved rock 'n' roll. As a kid, it was all that I listened to. I have sang other music genres, but it is rock'n' roll that makes me feel at home. Rock is my greatest love and the most natural for me to sing.
EDGE: When you started, there probably weren't a lot of women rock stars around then, who influenced your style?
Ann Wilson: I was most influenced by Mick Jagger, Elton John, and Judy Garland. I love musicians who are great storytellers and great singers.
EDGE: Forty years later, would you want to be starting your career in the music industry now?
Ann Wilson, the powerful lead singer of Heart, helped pave the way for thousands of women in rock music. Appearing Aug. 15 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, Wilson and her sister Nancy created a body of work that not only stands the test of time, but has influenced a diverse array of musicians.
"There are some that you wouldn't expect, like Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains," Wilson says. "Some of those guys you think are really heavy dudes, when you meet them they say, 'Oh yeah, I grew up on your music.'"
Currently, Ann and Nancy Wilson are not speaking to each other because of incident that took place in August 2016. Ann Wilson's husband, Dean Wetter, was charged with two counts of assault against Nancy Wilson's teenage sons. Wetter plead guilty to two non-felony assault charges in the fourth degree in March 2017.
Ann Wilson didn't want to talk about the incident, but did speak at length about touring as a solo artist and her future plans.
Question: In addition to songs by Heart, you're doing some interesting covers on this tour, including "I've Seen All Good People" by Yes, the Who's "The Real Me," and "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel. What do you look for in a cover song?
Answer: I look for a really interesting melody and lyrics, because I'm a singer and that's the most important thing to me. Especially lyrics, because I want all the songs I choose for this project to have a message and to be relevant to today's world. When I was choosing the songs for this show, I put together a great big wish list. It didn't matter if I had written it or somebody else had written it, I just wanted great songs.
Q:One of the more interesting choices is "Manic Depression" by Jimi Hendrix. Why that song?
A: It's real rocker. It's got lyrics that are not the usual type of formulaic words. It spoke to me, Jimi Hendrix's mental imagery on top of all the rock. You kind of have to just relax and listen to the phrases to understand what he's talking about: the frustration of multi-polarity, being a moody person, being a depressed person.
Ann Wilson, possessor of one of the most bombastic voices in rock, is soft spoken on the phone. Maybe she’s nursing her voice from a recent performance, maybe she’s been doing press interviews all day, but you have to lean into the phone to hear her. When you do hear that familiar voice though, you get tingles. The singer (and, frequently, writer) of some of the biggest songs to come out of rock music, her resume of hits reads like a jukebox in a biker bar. “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You,” “Alone,” and “Bad Animals,” are just a few of the songs that have kept Wilson a major draw on the tour scene from the late ‘70s and onward.
Best known as the lead vocalist for Heart, a band she fronted with lead guitarist and sister, Nancy, Ann is doing her own thing right now. Family drama has split up the act (for the time being), but Wilson has the recognizable pipes you’ll be expecting if you head down to her show at the Centennial Terrace on Thursday, August 10.
We couldn’t wait that long, and neither should you. We asked Ann a few questions about what she does best— here’s what she had to say:
Have you ever played Toledo before?
I remember the first time we played there, I was walking around in the street. I think we went shopping. It was really cold and bitter.
You were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How was that experience?
It was a cool night. It was quite an honor as you can image. For one night, you get to be queen for a day. And then the next day, you go back to work.
How did Chris Cornell end up being the one to induct you?
I think that the Rock Hall went and solicited him and asked him if he wanted to do it. They always try to come up with someone who’s a really big fan who’s well known, or who they feel just applies to your type of work. It was cool though.
There’s a line in rock and roll band Heart’s hit song “Crazy On You” that goes, “But I tell myself that I’m doing alright.”
Ann Wilson, who together with her sister, Nancy, sold 35 million albums with their band Heart, might find that lyric relevant in her life now more than ever.
“I feel more free and more inspired and more energized than I have probably since the early ’70s,” the musician recently told The Blade. “Artists always say this whenever they have a Renaissance moment, but it’s totally true for me. I feel like, what took me so long to step outside of the box?”
Ann Wilson, widely known for her contribution in Heart, will perform a solo set Thursday at Centennial Terrace, 5773 Centennial Rd., Sylvania.
Broken into two parts, Wilson’s show includes Heart covers to excite the crowd, followed by covers of various songs from other artists and a few originals, while an added video program plays throughout the set.
Wilson said she’ll intentionally avoid focusing solely on Heart’s discography.
“The idea here is not to come and do a repackaged Heart tribute,” Wilson said. “It's really to stretch my wings as a singer. It's really fun and [there are] amazing covers I’ve always wanted to sing. It's kind of old school in that way because you get wrapped up in the music and the visuals, so it’s a total experience for people.”
Wilson and her sister Nancy together became inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and wrote hits like 1975’s “Crazy On You”, “Magic Man” and “Barracuda” — songs that became staples of FM radio and in popular culture.
Heart’s success aside, Wilson finds herself more inspired as an artist performing solo.
“It sure wakes me up,” she said. “After years and years of revisiting the same songs the same way with Heart, it's really mind blowing for me to get out there and do something different. That's really what I wanted when I decided to do this is stir everything up and come back really vital and alive and make myself happy and hope that my energy will be infectious.”
Wilson said she’s trying to “break down all those paradigms” Heart became associated with while performing solo — barriers such as staying in luxurious hotels and playing the band’s hit songs at arenas in large cities where she couldn’t interact with people or experience what the location had to offer.
“Now it’s very organic,” she said. “I don’t stay in hotels ever. My husband and I have a customized bus we bought, and we love it to live in. After the show we go and find a campground and we go and sit outside and we look at the stars and talk about the show or whatever. The next day we get up and go to the next show. It’s a whole different way of life. We get to talk to people, just folks, and it’s like breaking out of some kind of bubble.”
A family incident involving Ann’s husband, Dean Wetter, and Nancy’s sons 16-year-old twin sons a year ago forced Heart to go on a hiatus. Ann has since pursued performing as a solo artist while Nancy keeps busy in her own band, Roadcase Royale.
She seems optimistic when asked if she sees herself performing with her sister again.
“I know we will some day in some way because we’ve played together all our lives, whether it was just as kids in our room at our parents’ house, or on big stages or whatever,” she said. “She’s an artist that I admire, and she’s always been a great collaborator. So right now, when we're both taking our own artistic leave; it's very, very good for us individually. When, and if, we come back together we'll bring new stuff to that union.”
For now Ann Wilson plans to focus on her solo shows for the remainder of the year. She mentioned an interest in trying her hand at acting, and, of course, she plans to keep writing songs.
“At my age I don’t want to keep replaying the same old same old; I just want to break some ground as long as I can and stay awake.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
“I’ve never really not been on the road,” says Ann Wilson, precisely one-half of iconic rock duo Heart, as she reflects on her current summer solo tour. Of course, this is a 100 percent true statement, considering that Heart, one of the first groups to machete through the inundation of hirsute white dudes dominating rock in the 1970s, boasts a career that spans decades, generations, and subgenres.
And Wilson has been there to witness every flash-in-the-pan trend in between.
“With every era that passes, there are different challenges,” she explains by phone as we chat about her career and her show this Sunday (August 13) at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium in Lynn. “Let’s say that in the 1970s, you had to be x, y, and z in order to be famous, and then going into the ’80s you had to do something else to stay around, and then in the ’90s… you have to learn how to evolve and not go with the times, not try and stay with the trends, but rather, be ahead of them.”
Now on the second leg of her solo tour, billed as “Ann Wilson of Heart,” the living legend is creeping towards her 80-gig goal for 2017 as she rolls into Lynn this weekend. Expect far more than classic like “Barracuda” and “Crazy On You,” though — the Heart singer says that she’s also bringing along covers and material from her self-titled project for her solo shows.
In advance of her Lynn appearance, Wilson chatted with Vanyaland to discuss her thoughts on picking the perfect setlist, recording a new solo album, and what it’s like to be a woman in the music industry after over 40 years as Heart’s frontwoman.
Victoria Wasylak: What made you decide to extend your tour?
Ann Wilson: Well, we’re getting an incredible response. My goal this year was to do about 80 shows, and we’re gonna hit that goal, so — that’s as long as it takes to do that many shows.
When Ann Wilson takes the stage in Lynn’s Veterans Auditorium on Aug. 13, fans shouldn’t expect a Heart show -- they should expect an Ann Wilson show.
“There will only be three or four Heart songs and they’ve been reimagined,” said Wilson, speaking from her home in Florida.
The 67-year-old rocker said she plans to deliver a good balance of old and new music, and what she called “some surprising cover tunes.” She’s been covering material from The Who, Peter Gabriel, The Black Crowes and even Elvis, and the old favorites will include iconic Heart hits like “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man” and perhaps the lesser known “Million Miles.”
“That’s a pretty deep track off ‘Fanatic,’” she said, referring to Heart’s 15th studio album released in 2012. “I really love it.”
Wilson has been touring as Ann Wilson of Heart, sans sister Nancy since January. As the rock duo Heart, the pair blazed a trail as the first rock band completely driven by women. It started with their 1976 debut album “Dreamboat Annie” and continued with songs like “Straight On,” “Dog & Butterfly,” “These Dreams,” “What About Love” and “Alone” for the next three decades. In 2012 they sailed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Remember "Barracuda?" Ann Wilson of the band Heart comes to Montclair and the Wellmont Theater on Aug. 18 for what she describes as a full audio visual experience.
Wilson will perform on this solo tour with guitarist Craig Bartock, drummer Denny Fongheiser, keyboardist Daniel Walker and Andy Stoller on base.
The band Heart has been around for about 40 years and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. The American rock band, which is led by Ann and her sister, Nancy, began in Vancouver but later became famous worldwide. They are currently on a “hiatus” and Wilson is on a 20-date solo tour.
Although the audience can expect around four Heart songs, Wilson will be singing mostly the tunes she wrote the last couple of years.
"I will also be playing some cool amazing covers that I love," she explained. “We have a video program for every song that I worked on with our lighting director."
When asked how her songwriting has developed over time, she said the process is basically the same throughout the years, “Find an original idea, start writing lyrics, envision the music for it and then start putting it together.”
In smaller venues one might expect a songwriter to test their new songs and tweak them based on audience reaction. To that question she replied, “I always pay attention to the audience reaction,” adding with a laugh that she keeps an eye out for audience members taking out their phone or falling asleep.
"Beautiful Broken," her sister Nancy’s project, was mainly re-records of past songs. However, Wilson wrote the title song. When asked what it was about, she only said, “It was somebody that I knew that inspired me to write a song. It’s a fabulous disaster person.”
As to who influenced Wilson as she came into the music world, she cited several classic rock artists such as Rush, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Elton John.
“Those were the artists of the day that were huge that I was listening to when I was like 17,” she added.
Wilson expressed her opinion that artists should be participants in what is going on in the outside world. She explained, “I believe that an artist should use their voice to join the dialogue about what’s going on in the country.”
When asked which of her songs might be politically inclined, she suggested "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "For What it’s Worth," saying they are “pretty well aimed.”
As for the Wellmont show, Wilson reported having received great reviews and audience response thus far.
“It’s a full night of entertainment,” she said.“You can leave your worries at the door. It will be very cool.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets at http://wellmonttheater.box-officetickets.com/