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Concert Reviews:
Rock veterans storm through favorites on a rainy night at DTE
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- As heavy rain drenched fans still entering the DTE Energy Music Theatre on Tuesday night, July 31, Ann Wilson cautioned those already situated that, "This is not a big, technological flashback kind of show. This is a music kind of show."

That was borne out the rest of the night by the Heart singer and fellow classic rockers Jeff Beck,. Paul Rodgers and Deborah Bonham -- although their performances were actually filled with flasbhacks, as well as plenty of musical flash.

The good news was that all parties were in top form on Tuesday. Rodgers and Wilson, both in their 60s, sang with power and palpable passion, and the 74-year-old Beck played with nimble virtuosity and sonic inventiveness, every bit the instrumental equal to his colleagues' voices. That the package drew only a paltry turnout that barely filled the DTE pavilion made it one of the summer's shows that got away.

Familiarity was the key to both Wilson's and Rodgers' sets. The former, in fact, played just one Heart song, "Barracuda," during her 45 minutes on stage and a new original, the bluesy "Fool No More." Instead she focused on OPs (other people's) favorites -- though none from Led Zeppelin, who Wilson has frequently covered with Heart. She bookended her set with the Who -- "The Real Me" and a muscular arrangement of "Won't Get Fooled Again" -- and previewed several songs from her upcoming "Immortal" album, which pays tribute to late rockers such as Glenn Frey (via the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane"), Lesley Gore ("You Don't Own Me") and Chris Cornell (Audioslave's "I Am the Highway"), all tweaked just enough to make them Wilson's own.

Wilson is planning a "Storytellers"-style tour to support the album this fall, and Tuesday's sampler certainly laid some groundwork for that return.

Rodgers also played a 70-minute set full of hits -- particularly from his band Bad Company although it was the material from his previous band, Free, that was really special. That group made only a small dent in the U.S. with "All Right Now" and "Wishing Well," but Rodgers and his Free Spirit band provided a valuable history lesson with hard-hitting renditions of "Little Bit of Love," "My Brother Jake," "Woman" and "Fire and Water," which sounded even better than the undeniably crowd-pleasing Bad Company favorites such as "Can't Get Enough," "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Movin' On," "Shooting Star" and "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy."

Beck, meanwhile, brought out Jimmy Hall for a few vocal songs -- Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew," Otis Rush's "I Have To Laugh," Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" -- but the star of the 70 minutes was the British guitarist's playing. Beck was lyrical and melodic when he needed to be (Nitin Sawhey's "Nadia," Syreeta's "Because We've Ended as Lovers") but he spent the bulk of the 17-song set screaming through the likes of Billy Cobham's "Stratus," Lonnie Mack's "Lonnie on the Move" and his own "Big Block," propelled by legendary jazz drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.

The sound mix sadly buried most of cellist Vanessa Freebairn-Smith's work, although she and Beck teamed for affecting deliveries of the Chieftains "Mina na h-Eireann" and Benjamin Britten's "Corpus Christi Carol," which Beck introduced as a tribute to the late Jeff Buckley. His instrumental rendering of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," meanwhile, remains a marvel of interpretation, and "Going Down" sent the crowd back into the rain feeling decidedly up from a night of exceptional performances and enduring talent.

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