Rodgers, Beck and Wilson shine in the Garden State

Singer Paul Rodgers during his headlining set Aug. 12 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

By Chris M. Junior

When three rock greats join forces for something dubbed the Stars Align Tour, it’s a given that hit songs and signature material will be performed each night. And on Aug. 12 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., that’s what Paul Rodgers, Jeff Beck and Ann Wilson played during their no-time-wasted respective sets, but not necessarily from their own catalogs.

Wilson began by belting out the line “Can you see the real me?” — and what followed was the Heart singer and her solo band navigating through the controlled chaos of The Who’s “The Real Me.” Heart’s “Barracuda” was a fitting follow-up and turned out to be the only song she did by her longtime band; for the remainder of her short set, Wilson focused on well-known outside material by recently deceased musicians (she does the same on her upcoming solo album, “Immortal”). Her dramatic take on Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” was moving, as was Wilson’s loud, defiant rendition of “You Don’t Own Me,” the fourth and final Top 5 pop hit by Jersey native Lesley Gore.

Heart’s Ann Wilson previewed songs from her upcoming solo album, “Immortal.” (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

With signature shades and vest, Beck was his typical masterful self, a placid look across his face that contrasted the range of sounds and moods coming from his white Fender Stratocaster. His instrumental version of the Stevie Wonder-penned “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” remains a melodic emotional journey, more than 40 years since Beck included it on his “Blow by Blow” album, and the guitarist’s approach to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” (a staple in his set for years) manages to be inventive and reverential at the same time.

Left to right: Rhonda Smith, Jeff Beck and Vinnie Colaiuta on Aug. 12. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Few hard-rock singers could compete with Rodgers in the 1970s, and the same holds true today as the Free/Bad Company frontman closes in on his 70s. Looking as hale and hearty as he sounded, Rodgers focused on choice songs from the aforementioned bands, among them “Can’t Get Enough,” “Wishing Well,” “Fire and Water” and “Shooting Star,” which he turned into a massive singalong toward the end. And as “Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy” was winding down, Steven Van Zandt ventured onstage with a tambourine and chipped in some vocals during the chorus, marking the only instance where stars — whether billed or not — would intertwine onstage.

The Stars Align Tour continues Aug. 14 in Wantagh, N.Y., then heads south for six shows, the last of which is Aug. 26 in Tampa, Fla.

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