STORY BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Every once in a while Ann Wilson steps away from her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Heart, to do her own thing.
In the middle of a 20-date “Ann Wilson of Heart” solo tour, an April 6 concert at the Keswick Theatre will feature Wilson backed by what she calls “a lean, mean … pretty organic” band with guitarist Craig Bartock — a member of Heart for a dozen years, Andy Stoller on bass and ‘90s Heart drummer Denny Fongheiser.
As for the set, expect the unexpected. Half the set, she said, is “Heart re-imagined — deep cuts that I had always loved.” Along with songs recorded since 2006 for her side project, The Ann Wilson Thing, there will be a number of covers of her all-time favorite songs, such as “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield and “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel.
There will be a video wall that Wilson described as being “like another player” on stage.
The tour is like an encore for Heart’s 2016 album “Beautiful Broken” and last year’s summer headlining tour with fellow hall-of-famers Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Cheap Trick.
“We’ve been friends with Cheap Trick from way back. Joan Jett, she is awesome; she is the real thing. It was good to hang out back stage,” said Wilson, adding that there was just one crew for all three bands that was “frazzled by the end because it was a big tour.”
When asked about the 1977 hit song “Barracuda”’s place in pop culture — cover versions, video game and movie soundtracks and briefly, to Wilson’s chagrin, Sarah Palin’s theme song — she said: “It’s a song that seems to just have a combination of words and groove and soul that gets people going, and it’s got an aggression going with it that transcends the years.”
It was originally composed as an angry response to sexist attitudes in the music industry — something that came as “a big surprise” to Wilson and her sister, Nancy. “We were raised by a mother who said: ‘You can do whatever you want’,” she said.
Instead, they heard a lot of: “You can’t do X, Y and Z because you’re a chick.”
“Things have changed gradually over the years. The idea of ‘cheesecake equals talent’ in star-making, that still hasn’t gone away,” said Wilson.
She pledged that she will never “phone in” a performance where she doesn’t give it her all. “That happens a lot more with performers my age,” said Wilson, who is 66.
“The main thing I do (to take care of my voice) is I don’t do things that are hard on it — smoking, drinking, drugs. I try to get sleep. It’s just a matter of being healthy.”