Ann Wilson spent her 67th birthday singing rock ’n’ roll arias for about 650 fans at the Uptown Theater on Monday. The odd but entirely satisfying concert consisted primarily of understated versions of classic rock songs.
The operatic vocalist in the Seattle band Heart, Wilson is one of the most celebrated women in rock. She and her sister Nancy, a guitarist in Heart, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 on the strength of their trailblazing work in the ’70s.
An unfortunate family-related incident last year put the status of Heart in limbo. Wilson is performing with the Heart guitarist Craig Bartock but without her sister on a tour that features fresh arrangements of rock staples along with a few Heart songs.
Wilson didn’t shy away from testing the limits of her imposing voice during a performance that lasted almost two hours (not including an intermission). She unleashed a volcanic scream in a rendition of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” one of three songs by the Who she and her four-piece band intrepidly tackled.
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Impressive interpretations of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” and Ray Charles’ “The Danger Zone” indicated that she could have attained a rewarding career as an R&B vocalist had she not fallen in love with rock ’n’ roll as a child.
After a feisty rendition of Elvis Presley’s “One Night,” Wilson recalled that “I was probably 6 or 7 when I first heard Elvis. … He made me feel wiggly.” Expressive readings of songs associated with the Animals, the Black Crowes and Jimi Hendrix were capable of inducing similarly amorous sensations.
Wilson delivered a handful of Heart songs with equal conviction. Her quietly intense approach on a spare treatment of “Alone” kept the love song on a low simmer.
Wilson explained that “we took all the extra away” from the original over-the-top arrangement of “What About Love?” The remarkably lean refashioning of the 1985 hit began with a lovely organ solo that quoted the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.”
A taut take of the 1977 Heart hit “Barracuda” included the lyric “if the real thing don’t do the trick you better make up something quick.” Monday’s show wasn’t the real thing for anyone insisting on a proper Heart concert, but the show was entirely worthy of Wilson’s formidable legacy.
The Real Me; Barracuda; Crazy on You; What About Love?; Fool No More; One Night; Anguish; Manic Depression; A Million Miles; I’ve Seen All Good People; She Talks to Angels; Don’t Give Up; We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place; Won’t Get Fooled Again; Alone; Love, Reign O’er Me; For What It’s Worth; Ain’t No Way; I Put a Spell on You; The Danger Zone.