Out on her own — Ann Wilson just as powerful as ever
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.
Q:The Heart songs you're singing live – "Barracuda," "Even It Up," "Crazy on You" – have they changed in meaning for you over the years?
A: Oh yeah, they have. "Barracuda" has changed because it's more vital and muscular now that it's stripped down. "Crazy on You" is a whole different version. I do three old Heart songs and they've been changed pretty radically. And the fourth Heart song is "A Million Miles," off the "Fanatic' album (from 2012).
Q:What do you think of being an icon and influence for women rockers?
A: I don't sit around patting myself on the back about that. I've just always gone out and done it, not speculate on it. If Nancy and I helped kick the door open a little bit for people to come through, fabulous. We did our work, but we don't sit around glamorizing it.
Q: Videos from recent shows indicate you haven't lost much, if anything, in your vocal range. How do you maintain your voice?
A: There's no trick. It's just respecting your voice, not doing things like smoking and drinking really helps. Staying hydrated, sleeping as much as you need to. Warming up is always good, but there's no real magic bullet to save your voice. If you're doing a super physical job of singing like I do, you just have to cross your fingers.
Q: Do you feel like your singing as well as ever?
A: I'm actually learning things now about vibrato. When you're inside of a body singing you don't always have the most restraint, or I don't. Sometimes I'm just way over the top pushing it way too hard, and then I see a video of myself and think, 'God, I didn't have to go to 11 on that one, I could have been a little more restrained.' I keep learning things like that.
Q: How long do you think you'll perform?
A: I can't answer that. It just all depends on opportunities and the turning of the wheel of life. I would like to be able to keep performing in some way. In the future I'd like to travel to a lot more places I haven't been, like Mexico and India, places where real life goes on. I've traveled a lot in my life, but it's been with a band where you go in and do a show and then you're gone.
Details: 724-836-8000, thepalacetheatre.org
Shows of Note
Dark Star Orchestra, Aug. 10, Stage AE, North Shore
It's been 22 years since Jerry Garcia passed away, and over two decades numerous Grateful Dead tribute bands have emerged. Dark Star Orchestra, formed in Chicago in 1997, is one of the more revered imitators, usually presenting original song lists from the Dead archives. One of the things that sets Dark Star Orchestra apart from other similar outfits is the approval of Grateful Dead alums; Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann have all appeared with the band. 412-229-5483, promowestlive.com.
Gov't Mule with Galactic, Aug. 13, Stage AE, North Shore
The most common description of Gov't Mule is as a southern rock jam band. Which doesn't tell you much save the band is from the South and indulges in extemporaneous musical excursions. What it also doesn't tell you is how guitarist and founder Warren Haynes is one of the great live guitarists of the era, having performed with the Allman Brothers the Dead, and the Mule. 412-229-5483, promowestlive.com.
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.