Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, Ann Wilson Stars Align Tour: A Tale of the Tape

The Stars Align tour is truly a show in which three “heritage” acts take the stage with something to prove.

Jeff Beck is two years removed from his most recent album (2016’s Loud Hailer), on which he wails like a man a third of his age, and he’s brought together another band that should challenge as well as accompany him each show. At 68, Paul Rodgers has spent time in the last year or so breathing new life into classics — embarking on a tour honoring his first big band, Free, then rejoining his mates in Bad Company for a short run of dates to put “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” “Can’t Get Enough” and “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” in front of audiences again. Lately, Ann Wilson has been showing off her skills as an interpreter; recent set lists show a preponderance for cover tunes over Heart classics.

They’re all together on one stage, each one primed and ready to duke it out and sweat out the summer’s hottest temperatures for thousands of fans every night, starting on July 18, in West Valley City, Utah. It’s a friendly competition, and we’re firm but fair. Let’s look at the tale of the tape.

CURRENT LINEUP

Jeff Beck: Jeff Beck (guitar), Jimmy Hall (vocals), Rhonda Smith (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Vanessa Freebairn-Smith (cello)
Paul Rodgers: Rodgers’ most recent band consisted of Pete Bullick (guitar), Rich Newman (drums), Ian Rowley (bass) and Gerard “G” Louis (keyboards)
Ann Wilson: Ann Wilson (vocals), Craig Bartock (guitar), Andy Stoller (bass), Dan Walker (keyboards) and Denny Fongheiser (drums)

Jeff Beck: Wallington, Surrey, England
Paul Rodgers:  Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England
Ann Wilson: Born in San Diego, based in Seattle

FIRST ALBUM

Jeff Beck: Truth (1968)
Paul Rodgers: Tons of Sobs (with Free, 1969)
Ann Wilson: Dreamboat Annie (with Heart, 1976)

The first Jeff Beck Group album, Truth, was the prototype for the amped-up blues-rock records of the early ‘70s that provided the foundation for what we think of as classic rock today. A young, hungry Rod Stewart stood toe-to-toe with the great guitarist and was not overwhelmed by the riffage firing off all around him; it’s still a tremendous sound to behold. Free’s Tons of Sobs, released a year after Truth, trafficked in the same kind of sound and dynamic, only Paul Kossoff was still working on the sound he would one day perfect and Paul Rodgers had yet to develop much restraint as a singer. The album hits you like a blunt object the first time you hear it, but not the second time, which is to say it’s a good record, but not a great one. Dreamboat Annie is a straight-up ‘70s classic, the sound of a young band with an old soul making stadium-rocking songs while still relegated to clubs, though not for long.

BREAKTHROUGH

Jeff Beck: Blow by Blow (1975)
Paul Rodgers: Bad Company (with Bad Company, 1974)
Ann Wilson: Heart (with Heart, 1985)

Along with Truth, Blow by Blow is what you hand people to give them a good idea of what Jeff Beck is all about. And you get them to cue up Side Two first, because it has “Freeway Jam” and “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” two of his very best songs (of course the funky-as-sin “Constipated Duck” is on Side One, and they should listen to that too). You’ve already heard just about everything off Bad Company, so you already know why that album did so well. And Heart’s career-regenerating 1985 record took the moribund band back to the top of the charts with hits like “What About Love,” “Never” and “These Dreams.”

GOLD, PLATINUM & DIAMOND ALBUMS

Jeff Beck: Two platinum, five gold
Paul Rodgers: Five platinum, two gold
Ann Wilson: Nine platinum, Five gold

Paul Rodgers’ Bad Company were a big hit right out of the gate; four of their six studio albums went platinum, with their self-titled debut earning quintuple-platinum certification, for selling in excess of five million copies. A best-of compilation, 10 From 6, sold two million, and rounded out their platinum hardware. The two studio records that didn’t go platinum (Burnin’ Sky and Rough Diamonds) went gold. Rodgers also earned a gold record with the 1985 debut by the Firm, his band with Jimmy Page.

Heart’s first four albums went platinum, and their fifth (Bébé le Strange) went gold. They went through a five-year fallow period before switching record companies and making 1985’s self-titled release, a multi-platinum smash that began a five-year period of success, through two more studio records (Bad Animals and Brigade) that earned multi-platinum certifications. Their 1980 Greatest Hits: Live and 2002’s Essential round out their platinum records; later albums like Desire Walks On and the live album The Road Home went gold.

TOP 10 SINGLES

Jeff Beck: None
Paul Rodgers: Three
Ann Wilson: Ten

Paul Rodgers has hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart three times — once with Free (“All Right Now,” which hit No. 4), and twice with early Bad Company singles “Can’t Get Enough (No. 5) and “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (No. 10).

Heart were a hit-making machine for a while, particularly from 1985 to 1990, when they racked up two No. 1 singles (“These Dreams” in 1985 and “Alone” in 1987) and a No. 2 (“All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” in 1990). Their early records yielded hits, as well; “Magic Man” hit No. 9 in 1976 and their cover of Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is” reached No. 8 in 1980. Wilson also hit No. 7 with “Almost Paradise,” a duet with Loverboy’s Mike Reno from the Footloose soundtrack in 1984.

Jeff Beck has never had a Top 10 hit of his own; however, he has contributed guitar to a number of hits by other artists, like Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation” (No. 6 in 1984), Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” (No. 7, 1984) and Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” (No. 1, 1990).

ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME

Jeff Beck: Yes (both solo and with the Yardbirds)
Paul Rodgers: No
Ann Wilson: Yes (with Heart)

Beck and Wilson have both been enshrined in the Hall — Beck in 1992 (with the Yardbirds) and 2009 (as a solo artist), and Wilson with the original lineup of Heart in 2013. Inexplicably, Paul Rodgers has not yet been inducted.

MOST RECENT STUDIO ALBUM

Loud Hailer was Beck’s first studio record in six years, a largely aggressive, arena-ready record with occasional moments of quiet beauty (like the soul ballad “Shame”). Soul is the whole point of Rodgers’ The Royal Sessions, a covers album featuring 10 blues and R&B tunes that influenced him as a young man. Otis Redding is well represented here, as are Albert King, the Temptations and Sam & Dave. Ann Wilson is also focused on cover tunes; her two Ann Wilson Thing EPs feature covers with a smattering of original material, and her upcoming album Immortal features song by artists (like David Bowie, Chris Cornell, Glenn Frey and Tom Petty) who recently died.

A SHORT PLAY ABOUT A ONE-NIGHT STAND, USING SONG LYRICS

Jeff Beck: [begins playing “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”]

Out in a pub:
Ann Wilson: [coyly] “You lying so low in the weeds; I bet you gonna ambush me. How do I get you alone?”
Paul Rodgers: [looks around, then fixes his gaze on her] “I take whatever I want, and baby, I want you. Let’s move before they raise the parking rate.”

Back at her place:
Ann Wilson: [puts on a Jeff Beck record, then turns toward him] “Let me go crazy on you.”
Paul Rodgers: [rips off his shirt] “Turn me on tonight — I’m radioactive!”

The next morning:
Ann Wilson: [staring at the ceiling] “I am the flower; you are the seed. We walked in the garden; we planted a tree.” [rolls over toward an empty pillow]
Paul Rodgers: [putting on his socks] “I got to move on, move on from town to town.”

Jeff Beck: [plays “Freeway Jam”]

SONG WE’D ADD TO THE SET LIST

Jeff Beck: “Oh to Love You”
Paul Rodgers: “Tear Down the Walls”
Ann Wilson: “Stairway to Heaven”

“Oh to Love You” is a languid ballad from the oft-maligned Beck, Bogert & Appice record from 1973, and would certainly please fans of Beck’s deeper cuts. “Tear Down the Walls” is a lurching rocker from the Firm’s second album, Mean Business (1986) that Rodgers himself probably doesn’t care for, but it would be a mighty thing to hear live. Speaking of mighty things, Wilson’s performance of “Stairway” at Led Zeppelin’s Kennedy Center Honors celebration in 2012 was a goosebumps-raising wonder and should be replicated every time she sets foot onstage.

Jeff Beck / Paul Rodgers / Anne Wilson Stars Align Tour
7/18 — West Valley City, UT, USANA Amphitheatre
7/20 — Los Angeles, CA, Five Point Amphitheatre
7/22 — Chula Vista, CA, Mattress Firm Amphitheatre
7/24 — Houston, TX, Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land
7/25 — Dallas, TX, The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
7/28 — St. Louis, MO, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
7/29 — Chicago, IL, Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
7/31 — Clarkston, MI, DTE Energy Music Theatre
8/01 — Toronto, ON, Budweiser Stage
8/03 — Boston, MA, Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
8/04 — Camden, NJ, BB&T Pavilion
8/08 — Cincinnati, OH, Riverbend Music Center
8/10 — Indianapolis, IN, Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
8/12 — Holmdel, NJ, P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
8/14 — Wantagh, NY, Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
8/17 — Nashville, TN, Nashville Municipal Auditorium
8/19 — Charlotte, NC, PNC Music Pavilion
8/25 — West Palm Beach, FL, Coral Sky Amphitheatre
8/26 — Tampa, FL, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Ampitheatre

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