Age is just a number. It’s a cliché, but like most clichés there is sometimes more than a kernel of truth to it and tonight, this trio of 70s FM radio warriors came together as The Stars Align tour and provided compelling evidence that the number of times they’ve circled the sun is deceptive. Paul Rodgers took the stage with loads of energy and spent the night bellowing out his hard rock-steeped-in-the-blues songs that he sang with Free and Bad Company. Though Free is really only well-known for that dad blues classic “All Right Now,” Rodgers and his band dipped into some deep cuts like “My Brother Jake” and “Woman,” making it clear that the blues has been his go-to form of expression from the beginning. Lithe and lively, Rodgers blasted through hits such as “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” and “Ready For Love.” I didn’t see any Viagra at the merch table but given the demographic it might have been a big seller.
As musicians get older, certain roles don’t have the same physical limitations that age slowly but surely levies. Guitarists have it a bit easier than singers, as their tone and range are entirely unaffected. Beck has worked with some great singers, most notably Rod Stewart on the early, post-Yardbirds records, but then went to a more jazz-rock fusion sound into the 70s without a singer. He’d stick mainly to interpretations of other people’s songs, even eschewing arguably his biggest solo hit “Freeway Jam” for Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from Blow By Blow. His choice of playing an upside down white Strat threw a sly nod to his hero Jimi Hendrix, and made more pronounced when he did a beautiful cover of “Little Wing.” Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall would come out on stage for a handful of songs, including another Wonder cover “Superstition,” re-made a decade or so later by another famous blues guitar player. Beck still looks very much like the template for Nigel Tufnel and still keeps the blues flame alive (despite the addition of a cellist and dated slap bass player).
Ann Wilson needs no introduction to American rock fans, with her crystal clear, soaring voice providing the exclamation point for Heart’s hard rock/Renaissance Fair hybrid. She’s just released a new record of songs that she’s connected with over the past, and clearly relishes her time on stage. Musicians just want to play music, and while Heart is on a bit of a hiatus, she decided to belt out her own versions of songs from The Who, fellow Seattlelite Chris Cornell (via an Audioslave song), Cream and even “You Don’t Own Me,” a Lesley Gore song that she prefaced by calling Gore a pioneer for standing up for women in the music industry. Of course, she had to play at least one Heart song, and “Barracuda” showed a few hints that she’s lost a bit off her fastball, but fully acquitted herself on the second of two Who songs, nailing the scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Long live rock.
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