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Concert review: Ann Wilson thunders through solo show in Atlanta

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Ann Wilson belted like the rock legend she is at the Buckhead Theatre on Tuesday. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene

[I’m on with my rock ‘n’ roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 4:50 p.m. to talk about the latest music news. Tune in to hear what’s up!]

Early in her show Tuesday night at Buckhead Theatre, Ann Wilson told the crowd that she wanted to “go on a journey together” – a musical journey that would entail a brief detour into her famous Heart catalog, a couple of power-packed originals and many well-chosen cover songs.

Through them all, one thing was certain: Wilson still possesses one of the meatiest, most durable voices in rock ‘n’ roll.

In her pink and black ensemble, hair streaked in defiant colors, she rolled out three of the five Heart songs she would perform early in the set, almost as if to say, “Yes, I know you want these. Here. Now let’s move on.”

Wilson mixed Heart songs with originals and many covers. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

That isn’t to imply that Wilson approached their delivery with apathy. She’s incapable of singing without deeply feeling every note.

But she did twist “What About Love” (with a sweet keyboard intro from “God Only Knows”) into a deliberate, sultry walk and similarly deconstructed “Alone” into a slow-burn piano version. (In a recent interview with the AJC, Wilson talked about why she chose these particular Heart songs.)

While one solo tune, “Fool No More,” about “being here right now,” meshed blues and rock, her other offering, “Anguish,” with its robust marching beat and dual guitars, sounded like the strain of Led Zeppelin that informs so many Heart songs.

Backed by guitarist Craig Bartock, bassist Andy Stoller, drummer Denny Fongheiser and keyboardist/accordionist Dan Walker, Wilson was able to easily zigzag among covers ranging from Elvis Presley (the epic come-on “One Night with You”) to Jimi Hendrix (“Manic Depression,” with Fongheiser brilliantly holding down the swinging groove as Bartock worked his whammy bar) to several Who favorites.

Ann Wilson, winding up. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

If there is a female vocalist alive who can match the sheer lung power of Roger Daltrey (in his prime), it’s Wilson. Even at 66, she yowled and howled, eyes scrunched tight and chin vibrating, as she thundered through “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Love Reign O’er Me.”

And if there was any doubt – yes, she hit THE notes in each song, even pausing to take a deep breath before her final slam dunk in “Love Reign…,” which launched the often-subdued crowd to its feet.

No doubt, there will always be something special about seeing Wilson on stage with sister Nancy slinging her guitar and the pair coming straight on for you. But experiencing Wilson solo in an intimate setting, sharing her versions of Black Crowes and Peter Gabriel songs and sensing her happiness at this liberation for however long it lasts, conjured its own magic.

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