While I am always excited to travel for a concert, nothing is better than when one of my favorite artists chooses to perform in my own backyard. On August 26th, Ann Wilson & Tripsitter played at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, New Jersey. This is my favorite intimate venue in New Jersey. Their sound system is phenomenal and each concert runs smoothly and efficiently. I saw Ann Wilson here in 2017, where she opened with The Who’s “The Real Me.” Six years later, Wilson is still blowing the roof off of the place.
Ann Wilson’s Ever Present Power
Wilson opened the show with Heart’s “Even It Up,” which was a glorious taste of what was to come. Wilson’s powerful vocals meshed well with the band’s infectious energy, and it was an immediate crowd pleaser, earning her the first of many standing ovations of the night. She then introduced the band, Tripsitter, and jokingly remarked that they were here to “make sure everything is all good.” The crowd laughed. Wilson’s humor and good-natured spirit is one of my favorite parts of seeing her perform. The audience can feel how much she loves what she does, and this reflects even more in her excitement to create new music.
Ann Wilson, Past and Present
Wilson and Tripsitter seamlessly wove their new music in with Heart’s classics. After “Even It Up,” Wilson said that she enjoyed collaborating with Tripsitter so much that she felt like they had to make an album together. One of the songs from the forthcoming album is called “Ruler of The Night.” She stated that the song is about “a nerd” who discovers the power that fashion can hold. She humorously admitted that the song was about her, and it takes us on a journey of a woman stepping into her power. The song is sonically very interesting, combining Tripsitter’s psychedelic hard rock with softer elements like Ann Wilson’s flute. I loved this performance and its avant-garde fashion inspiration.
Wilson and Tripsitter then launched into Magic Man, which was obviously a crowd favorite. Magic Man is one of my favorite songs of all time, and Tripsitter played it with such finesse and ease. Wilson’s vocals were incredible, perhaps the best I’ve seen of hers since 2017. Her voice had such a rich, clear quality on the low notes, and explosive grit on the high notes. This performance was invigorating, and it earned her another standing ovation. She also spoke about how she wrote the song while she was still living at home. Her mom wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of her budding music career, and she was expressing that it was time for her to move on. The song exists in a transitory space for her, and I loved hearing her reflect on that.
Similarly, Wilson explicitly stated that being a woman, especially a woman in rock, in the 1970s was difficult. She candidly admits that she would never want to go back. This led to a moving performance of her song “This is Now.” The song combines nostalgia with excitement for what’s to come. Tripsitter was the perfect band for this song as they have a traditional psychedelic rock sound to them, but they are also very versatile and modern. This performance solidified that the past can inspire the present, but the present can’t live there.
Ann Wilson and Led Zeppelin
Heart’s iconic performance of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center Honors is imprinted in many music lovers’ minds. In fact, it’s even Robert Plant’s and Jimmy Page’s favorite cover of the song. It’s no secret that Led Zeppelin inspired Ann Wilson and Heart to create music in the first place.
With Tripsitter, Wilson continued to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin with her first cover of the night, “Immigrant Song.” This was the biggest vocal highlight of the show for me. Wilson’s voice sits at an interesting crossroad between hard rock and gospel; a rebel yell with a soulful overtone. The combination of clarity and grit sent shivers down my spine, and once again, solidified Ann Wilson as one of the best rock vocalists of all time.
Classics and Inspiration
Wilson and Tripsitter played Heart’s “Crazy On You” with such fervor that the crowd leapt to their feet. I really appreciated the nuance in both the music and the vocals, oscillating between soft and sensual with hard and commanding. “Crazy On You” is such a tantalizing song that ropes the listener in. Wilson is an expert in knowing how to use her voice to draw listeners to her. The rich, sultry lower register and the emotive vibrato made her performance feel incredibly intimate. It was truly like a whisper in the audience’s ear or a siren call. It was a sight to behold.
What I found exciting about her and Tripsitter’s collaboration is that the music is very Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix inspired. Much like Wilson’s voice, Tripsitter’s sound is a combination of heavy metal and blues. This is my favorite sound in all of rock-and-roll, and this pairing is truly a match made in heaven for me.
Still, the group is versatile. They closed the set with David Bowie’s “Just Dance.” I thought this was a nice callback to Wilson and Tripsitter’s original song, “Ruler of The Night.” It’s clear that Bowie inspired Wilson and Tripsitter, and it was a perfect full-circle moment that showcased the group’s love of music.
The group returned to the stage for an all-strings version of Heart’s mega-hit, “Alone.” Wilson once again exhibited her ability to draw an audience in through a sultry, soft, yet commanding voice. She then launched into another Zeppelin cover, “Going To California,” showcasing her laidback vocals and Tripsitter guitarist and keyboardist, Paul Moak’s mandolin skills. They closed the show with an electric performance of Barracuda, with Wilson’s wails about the shortcomings of the music industry still as primal as ever.
Ann Wilson’s legendary vocals and her genuine love for her art sets her apart from many musicians who would ride on the coattails of their heyday. Her continued ambition and willingness to experiment with her sound keeps her new music as engaging and relevant as the classics. Ann Wilson and Tripsitter put on a fantastic show, and I highly recommend catching them on tour.