The Stars Are Set To Align At PNC Music Pavilion
Classic Rock Legends Paul Rodgers, Jeff Beck, and Ann Wilson Bring The Magic To Charlotte
No matter what the weather may bring, the stars were definitely shining bright on the Queen City as the Stars Align Tour headed to the PNC Music Pavilion on Sunday, August 19th.The tour features rock and roll royalty, with guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck combining forces with Paul Rodgers, one of the most iconic voices in rock, on a co-headlining run through North America. Joining them is powerhouse vocalist Ann Wilson, better know as one half of the classic rock band Heart, for what was a true showcase of musical talent. This is definitely a show that no music lover will want to miss.
Superstar guitarist Jeff Beck is a man who needs no introduction as his rock resume clearly speaks for itself. His early career with The Yardbirds had him working alongside two other talented musicians who would also go on to become household names: Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
Beck also had a long solo career with The Jeff Beck Group and has worked with a list of world class musicians too long to mention, including Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, and Roger Waters. His innovative style of play has earned him widespread critical acclaim and numerous awards, winning six Grammy Awards for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and not one but two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – one with The Yardbirds and one as a solo artist.
Jeff has also been a huge influence on guitarists around the world. Ask any serious player to name a guitarist that they admired and were inspired by and Jeff Beck’s name is bound to be brought up.
His latest record and eleventh studio album Loud Hailer was released in 2016 via ATCO Records, and was both a commercial and artistic success. With his unique style of play sans guitar pic and his signature Fender Stratocaster, Jeff is a master of rock and blues and an artist that you must see live at least once in your lifetime.
While Jeff Beck may be a guitar hero, Paul Rodgers is an extraordinary vocalist possessing one of the most powerful voices in the history of rock music. Rodgers is known as “The Voice” and has fronted three of rock’s classic bands:Free, Bad Company, and The Firm. Paul is also a ridiculously talented songwriter penning the classic hit “All Right Now” during his time in Free with bandmate Andy Fraser and “Feel Like Makin’ Love” along with Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs.
His voice has been a quintessential part of rock and roll and served to influence generations of singers including Lou Gramm, Bruce Dickinson,and the late Chris Cornell to name a few. Rodgers has been gracing the world with his one of a kind blues rock pipes for over fifty years and is still going strong. When his voice resonates across the venue, you won’t want to miss even a single note.
As if the one-two punch of Beck and Rodgers isn’t enough, they are bringing along Heart vocalist Ann Wilson to open the show. Her dynamic soprano voice has a terrific range and is responsible for songs like “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda” both of which are radio rock classics. Fifty years in music can be difficult on anybody, most especially on a singer, but Wilson still maintains the vocal chops of her younger years that made her a standout among her peers.
Her elegance and finesse will leave you breathless and if she treats us by including “What About Love” or “Alone” to her set list, be prepared for an out of this world experience as the chills run up and down your arms.
This was the show I had been most looking forward to this summer concert season and as I drove into the parking lots of the venue I was more than ready for whatever the night would bring. Hardcore fans had already arrived and the requisite pre-show tailgating had already kicked into high gear. I could smell the delicious aromas emanating from the portable grills that were set up around the lot as I made my way to the entrance gates. There was quite a crowd of people already lined up to get in and secure a good spot on the lawn. Others were taking the opportunity to relax, some throwing a football around and some playing a few rounds of cornhole to pass the time.
The evening got off to an early start as singer-songwriter Deborah Bonham started her set promptly at 6:35 to a fairly empty venue. The show had been advertised to begin at seven so many fans were just arriving as her performance began. Those that made it to their seats early were treated to a short but solid set of rock and blues. Deborah hails from a family of talented English rock musicians. She is the sister of the late John Bonham, the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer, and aunt to another famous drummer, Jason Bonham.
Unlike some artists that ride the coattails of their famous kin, Deborah is a pure talent on her own, possessing a set of pipes that were clearly destined to sing the blues. Accompanied only by a guitarist, it was her rich and powerful voice that filled the arena with beauty and soul.
The highlight of her show was an exquisite and poignant rendition of the song “The Old Hyde”, written about The Old Hyde Farm where she lived as a child. Bonham was a perfect fit for this bill and wish that more people were there to partake in her music.
There were a lot of Heart t-shirts in the crowd and a huge roar erupted from the first few rows of seats as Ann Wilson made her way onstage. Ann wasted no time kicking things off with a scorching version of “The Real Me” by The Who. Dressed in a lovely blue and turquoise dress, Ann looked every bit as lovely as she sounded and showed no signs of slowing down. Wilson took a few moments to address the crowd explaining that this night was not about being dazzled by technology, but was solely about the music before electrifying the audience with an old Heart classic “Barracuda.” Afterwards, she told the crowd that she wasn’t going to play a bunch of Heart songs.
Instead she would be mixing it up with some cover songs that are featured on her upcoming solo album Immortal. At first, I admit I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be hearing “Alone” but truthfully Ann sounds fantastic no matter what she sings. Her beautiful soprano voice sounds amazing and she can still belt out all the high notes. People sometimes joke that a singer can sing the phone book and still sound good and in Ann’s case that may actually be true. Ann then paid homage to Aretha Franklin, who recently passed away, with a touching performance of “Ain’t No Way”.
She then took a moment to reflect on the other great artists who left us in recent years mentioning David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Chris Cornell dedicating Audioslave’s “I Am The Highway” to all the artists we have lost explaining that Immortal doesn’t mean she will live forever but simply that the music would go on forever. It was an epic showcase by one of the greatest vocalists to ever grace a stage.
After seeing two breathtaking vocalists, it was time to change things up and check out one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock, Jeff Beck. He is a true living legend and people came from near and far to see the axemaster in person. The stage very much resembled a theater setting with huge, lush curtains at the rear of the stage and simple but dramatic lighting.
Jeff exudes cool in every movement he makes and looked the part with his dress shirt and vest. As he began to play “Pull It”, he sauntered across the stage making everything look so easy. Like a fine wine, Beck keeps getting better with age and it’s hard to believe his is seventy-four years old. His technique is effortless and flawless as he made his Fender stratocaster do his bidding.
I’m glad that the video camera operator made a point to continually zoom in on Jeff’s hands. To see him pluck and bend his strings sans pick is something extraordinary to see. Beck ran through a mixed set of seventeen songs, some instrumental and others featuring southern rock vocalist Jimmy Hall whose gritty, raw voice was a perfect complement to the blues rock guitar leads of Jeff Beck. It’s not often that you get to witness a guitarist of this caliber and magnitude making the night an experience nobody will soon forget.
Closing out a night of magical music, was “The Voice” himself, Paul Rodgers. The nickname is a fitting one as Rodgers was the voice behind some of the biggest bands and greatest rock songs of all time. His set was a combination of both Bad Company and Free songs opening with “Little Bit of Love” from the classic Free album Free At Last. The air was thick with humidity on this hot, summer night making it a challenge for most singers, but Paul handled it with no problems as he belted out hit after hit.
The stage was simple with his backing band staying in the dimly lit background with the spotlight ,both literally and figuratively, on Rodgers all night long. The highlight of the night was a passionate performance of “Shooting Star” from the 1975 Bad Company album Straight Shooter. The song was written by Rodgers and tells the timeless tale of a young rockstar who succumbs to excess and dies of a drug overdose, a theme that certainly resonates to this day. With Rodgers allowing the audience to take over on the chorus, it was definitely a moving moment and one fans would remember forever.
Paul took a moment to thank his crew for helping to make the shows run smoothly and of course the audience for spending the evening with him. The eighties Bad Company hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” closed out the regular set with intense energy. Paul and his band returned for a two song encore finishing up with Free’s iconic hit “All Right Now” which had the crowd on their feet.
It was a fantastic night of legendary rock with the only disappointment being the attendance. To say that the show was poorly attended would be an understatement. It really was a shame to see Hall of Famers playing to so many empty seats.
Where were all the Charlotte classic rock fans? I don’t have the answer to that question but I certainly hope it was a one time fluke. This lineup is something special and although the show is over, the memories of this magical night will forever. I think the music says it best, “If you listen to the wind, you can still hear him play.”
I’m definitely not an astronomer, but I know that when the planets or stars align it is a rare cosmic event. Luckily, music fans have a few more chances this summer to check out The Stars Align Tour and witness a little rock and roll history in the making.
Stars Align Tour Remaining Dates:
August 25, 2018 | West Palm Beach, FL – Coral Sky Amphitheatre
August 26, 2018 | Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre