Atlanta Music Scene

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Ann Wilson of Heart ready to rock with Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers

As Ann Wilson puts it, people aren’t coming to a concert featuring her, Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers “to be blinded by technology and super production … they come to hear music.”

The robust voice of Heart is part of one of summer’s most interesting touring alliances — especially for music fans who like their rock ‘n’ roll spiked with big choruses and artful guitar work.

There’s “not a clinker in the bunch,” Wilson joked of this “Stars Align Tour,” which pulls into State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park on Wednesday.

Wilson, who will take the stage after opener Deborah Bonham (sister of Led Zeppelin drumming legend John), is on the road with her fellow rock stalwarts to promote her upcoming album, “Immortal,” due Sept. 14. The concept is to pay tribute to deceased artists — from Leonard Cohen to Glenn Frey of the Eagles to Amy Winehouse to Tom Petty — by putting her own spin on their songs (and not always the most obvious choices).

Calling in recently from a tour stop in Ohio to chat with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Kaedy Kiely of The River 97.1 FM (hear the full interview at 971theriver.com), Wilson, 68, talked about what to expect from her live set and shared her thoughts on some of the album’s songs.

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On her previous relationship with her tourmates:

“I had shaken hands with Paul once in the ‘90s, but I didn’t know him and I had never met Jeff Beck. Leading up to the tour, we had lunch once. This has been a payoff for me, having been a Beck fan all of these years.”

On the timing of her “Immortal” album:

“Around the time Chris Cornell died, and then Chester Bennington (died) and I thought OK, come on now, what’s going on here? I gotta do something about this. That’s when I started thinking about it. I didn’t want to grab a bunch of radio hits and redo them. I wanted to look at the artist’s body of work and choose the best songs that I like the most.”

Ann Wilson mixed Heart songs with originals and many covers when she played Buckhead Theatre in 2017. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

On the electronica influences on her versions of “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Baker Street”:

“I wanted to take ‘Baker Street’ away from the sax solo and lay the words out because I think they’re really cool. It’s a great story about one door closing and another opening and realizing it’s just time to go home. I wanted to show the power of it, so I put in the electronic bed and some real strong power chords and there you have it. ‘Life in the Fast Lane,’ I wanted to make much more tribal and take it out of Bakersfield (California) rock and I’m working with this amazing drummer, Denny Fongheiser.”

On the inclusion of Cream’s “Politician” (in memory of bassist Jack Bruce):

“Jack Bruce, he wasn’t the noisiest member of Cream — it was probably Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker who got the most notoriety. But Jack was a hell of a bass player. I always liked ‘Politician’ because that riff he came up with for that song was so slithery and sleazy. I never forgot ‘Politician,’ especially in light of what’s going on in our culture right now where politicians, the ultimate salesmen, are doing this song and dance in front of everybody. Everybody knows what they’re doing right now, and everyone is watching it like some kind of seduction campaign, so I thought ‘Politician’ was really relevant.”

On striking a balance between Heart songs and her own work live:

“I have 45 minutes to present myself. At my age, I kinda went, well, I guess I pretty much better do whatever I want because the clock is ticking! I go out and do ‘Barracuda’ and then I tell the crowd I’m not here to concentrate on Heart songs, I’m here to play stuff off my new record. That’s the bargain I’m going to strike. We’re not getting any negative response. I think people understand what I’m doing.”

On the span of demographics in the audience:

“There’s young people and those who are quite advanced in years. It’s like the whole village showed up. When you think of some of those people in their 70s, it takes a lot to come to a rock show and they’re doing it. I have to respect them for getting the energy to get out of whatever La-Z-Boy and come out. … It’s beautiful to see all of the ages sitting together. The women are beautiful whether they have long silver hair or long Kardashian hair. There are lots and lots of bald heads out there.”

CONCERT PREVIEW

Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers and Ann Wilson of Heart

With Deborah Bonham. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. $35-$150. Non-table setup (coolers and carry-ins are not allowed). State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park, 4469 Stella Drive NW., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.

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About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta Music Scene and entertainment news for print and online.

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