The Ann Wilson Thing
            As the concert season heats up here in Dallas, a few diehard fans were treated to a very special, intimate performance last night by one of the best female singers of all time. The super soprano voice of Ann Wilson was on full display at The Bomb Factory and it may just have been the best show there so far this year. Promising to do “whatever she wanted” with the set list, the audience was kept guessing what songs they would hear from Heart’s leading lady.
            As the band made their way out onto the dark stage, a resounding full throated scream was heard from the crowd as the lights focused on Ann just before she belted out the first lyrics to The Who’s “The Real Me”. That was the first sign that tonight’s songs would be a kaleidoscope of songs that mattered to Ann personally. Her voice was as strong and clear as ever while the band behind her hit every note with perfection. The unmistakable guitar intro to “Barracuda” was churned out by guitarist Craig Bartock (Ann’s bandmate in Heart) as about half of the audience rose to their feet to sing along. The intro to “Crazy on You” consisted only of the organ and Ann’s beautiful vocals before diving head first into the rocking rhythms that we were familiar with. Taking a moment to speak with the audience, Ann explained that the next song might be the last Heart tune played while she implored the audience to just sit back and enjoy the ride with her. So we were treated to a stripped down, re-imagined version of “What About Love” that was received very well by her fans.
            Pausing for a moment to play one of her original solo songs, “Fool No More” was started off by some fine blues guitar licks in front of scat drumming and mellow keyboards as Ann’s vocals sat on top of it all very nicely. The first real wildcard of a cover was Elvis’ “One Night” – Ann mentioned how the song made her feel “tingly” when she was 7 or 8 years old. With the steamy video of couples making out up behind her, she did that song proud by hitting all of the highs and lows it had to offer. They finished off set one with another new original song, “Anguish” (which featured bassist Andy Stoller sitting down to play his instrument in his lap), about the time spent away from her new love and a completely wild version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression”, Ann received a much deserved standing ovation as she exited for a short break.
            Set two began with the Heart song “Million Miles” as it featured a jazzy intro followed by a rocking outro highlighted by keyboardist Dan Walker frenetically playing two machines at the same time. The following cover tunes ranged from acoustically performed “I’ve Seen All Good People” by YES to the stunningly beautiful “She Talks to Angels” by The Black Crowes (my favorite song of the evening) to the perfectly played The Who classics “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”. Mixed in between those were “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel, The Animals’ “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” with some nice drum work by Denny Fongheiser and a gorgeous piano-led rendition of Heart’s “Alone”. I was taking the time during the last one to survey the audience under the glowing stage lights and what I saw was pure joy flowing from their faces.
            Retreating from the stage once again, Ann and the boys were quickly back out to thunderous applause as they streaked through four more songs that were wildly different from each other: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, “Ain’t No Way” from Aretha Franklin, “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and finally Ray Charles’ “The Danger Zone”. All of them were done with care and perfection by the band while Ann’s voice remained strong & true to the end. It was an amazing night of music highlighted by Ann Wilson’s phenomenal vocals and the audience’s admiration for her talent.




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