Ann Wilson at Mystic Lake RibFest, Prior Lake, MN (29 July 2017)
Although it technically may have been, call it anythingbut half-Heart-ed,
Heart vocalist Ann Wilson and her solo band, The Ann Wilson Thing! headlined the recent 4th AnnualRibFest weekend, held outside in the parking lot of Mystic Lake Casino in suburban Prior Lake. Acts playing earlier in the day included The Edgar Winter Group, Alex Rossi, and a reunited Winger.
Best known as the singer for the legendary Seattle band, Wilson has recently re-emerged as a solo artist with a couple of EPs (on Olympic Trust/Rounder Records) and a tour which showcases her own body of work, as well as pays tribute to some of her influences and the classic songs that inspired her.
Wilson and band began their ninety-minute set in daylight, though sunset was near, on a warm but not too warm Saturday evening. Featuring longtime creative cohort Craig Bartock on guitar to her right, the band began with their roaring cover of The Whoclassic, Wilson’s distinctive voice showcased and unmissable from the beginning.
“Hope everybody’s having a fine time tonight” Wilson said after a chugging ‘Barracuda’ “…this is life!” she said before Heart’s ‘Crazy on You’ with an acapella intro. Although Heart looks back on their 80’s output with disdain (although commercially successful, the band didn’t write a lot of the songs and weren’t happy with their image), ‘What About Love’ was stripped and re-imagined to its essence, complete with a Beach Boys snippet intro.
The new ‘Fool No More’ was a blues song about time, with a mean Bartock solo, and ‘Anguish’ co-penned by Bartock from their second EP, Focus, simmered with its slow beat and lyrics about passion. ‘A Million Miles’ sounded like the techno remix version of the 2012 Heart song with its neo-electro beats, and music then took a sharp turn as Wilson and band next covered a 1971 Yes classic, which segued nicely into their Black Crowes cover.
‘Don’t Give Up’, also on Focus, was a nice version of the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush song, with Wilson effortlessly taking both vocal parts. ‘We Gotta Get Out of this Place’ was an ideal showcase for Wilson’s vocals (still soaring at age 67) followed by the second of three Who covers (though strangely, no Led Zeppelincovers, which Heart would do frequently).
The encore began with an updated, keyboard tweaked and more bouncy version of a Buffalo Springfieldclassic and her bluesy version of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ had riff elements of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You’ before giving way to New Orleans style piano by keyboardist Daniel Walker.
Set finale was ‘Danger Zone’ from the band’s self-titled EP, a 1961 Ray Charles song she reminisced that her mother would sometimes play, at the end of a long day, and whose lyrics still echo as relevant today.
Though Heart and the sisters Wilson are on a current indefinite hiatus, it’s still refreshing to have The Ann Wilson Thing! touring and hearing that legendary voice, responsible for so many great songs over the last forty years. Wilson may be without her guitarist sister, but the songs and performance are anything but half-Heart-ed.