Three of the greatest musical talents of a generation in one rock show! The powerful falsetto voice of Ann Wilson of Heart, guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck who started his career with a little band called “The Yardbirds” and Paul Rodgers, the lead singer of both Free and Bad Company! What a way to spend a Sunday night in Tampa! This was the final show of the tour that has been one of the best rock shows making the summer tour rounds. This is the crème de le crème of musicians and vocalists! Not only the headliners themselves but their bands employ some of the best musicians in the business!
The opening act was a relative of rock royalty, Deborah Bonham is the sister of the late drummer John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and auntie to Jason Bonham. Her blues/rock vocals are a perfect opener for this tour. Her 4 song set included a song tribute she wrote for John called “The Old Hyde”. Her accompanying guitarist Ian Hatton started out playing with Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers! Just keepin’ it all in the musical family!
Ann Wilson is such a vocal force! Opening with “The Real Me”! She tells the audience that it’s not going to be a “Heart” hits setlist and it is far from it. There is ONE Heart song from the 1977 Heart “Little Queen” album, “Barracuda” takes off and gives the Heart fans in the audience a nod. Ann’s voice sounds as good or better, because it is live, as it did in my memory of “Barracuda” on my radio dial in 1977. Keeping her word, she moves on to music that she wants to sing and that’s fine, because she can sing anything and she does from “You Don’t Own Me” to the Eagles “Life in the Fast Lane”. Wilson does a tribute to her friend Chris Cornell and other musicians we have lost recently with Cornell’s Audioslave tune, “I Am the Highway”. She closes with a monster cover of The Who’s “Won’t get Fooled Again”. Ann Wilson is a rock queen!
Jeff Beck. The name conjures up guitar cool on a whole other level. Beck has been called the “Picasso of the guitar” and Rolling Stone’s Number Five on the top 100 guitarists of all time! The best way to experience Beck is to just shut up and listen! At 74, incredible notes pour from his guitar in ways that are unimaginable and you wonder how he even makes this happen! Of course, Beck brings along the BEST with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and clearly these two have a chemistry together that is amazing. Colaiuta played for years with Zappa and was in Sting’s band along with being in the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. Mr. Beck likes to work with female bass players and right now Rhonda Smith is bringing it. Best known for her work with Prince and Beyonce, Smith is a sought after player. Jimmy Hall from “Wet Willie” fame is on vocals for the few songs Beck plays that include Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and the incredible cover of his late guitar peer, Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing” for which Beck apologizes before he plays it. No need for apologies Mr. Beck, I am sure Jimi approves! My personal favorite was the instrumental of the Beatles “A Day in the Life” – just wow! Beck adds cellist Vanessa Freebairn- Smith and classes up an already classy show!
Closing out the show rock legend Paul Rodgers brings some of the 60’s & 70’s most beloved music from his time capsule that still sounds the same! Rodgers came out swingin’ opening with Free’s “Little Bit of Love” and rolling into Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough”! John Mellencamp has called Rodgers the “best rock singer ever” and he is number 55 on the Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time and has also influenced local songstress Twinkle who has performed with Rodgers. Let’s not forget that Rodgers was also part of the 80’s band “The Firm” and toured with Queen! The setlist was Free and Bad Company all the way! Rodgers fans were heavy in attendance with Bad Company t-shirts walking around. The showstopper of the list was “Ready for Love” made a hit by Bad Company but actually a cover of Mott the Hoople. You could hear Rodgers and the audience singing along across the street at the Hard Rock Hotel! At 68, Rodgers is still running around the stage and famously twirling his mic stand like he has since the 70’s. Rodgers and his band Free Spirit closed with the 1970 Free rock anthem “All Right Now” sounding as timeless as ever!
Photos courtesy of Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography