Women Who Rock Stage AE Pittsburgh, Pa. October 16th 2021

Reviewed by Michael Rampa


t’s a given that Pittsburgh’s annual “Women Who Rock” concert will showcase some of the finest all female fronted bands around. With over a thousand tickets sold and slew of donors supporting women’s health, the event has grown exponentially since its inception four years ago. Refreshingly, it showcases Pittsburgh as a city not only as a music destination but one on the cutting edge of medicine and philanthropy rather than the antiquated “Steel City” identity it has held for so long.

Youngstown based alt rockers The Vindys led the night off. They gained traction in 2013 and showcased songs from their sophomore album “Bugs,” a spawn of the pandemic. Lead singer Jackie Popovec has the horsepower and grit of Janis Joplin and the sex appeal of Gwen Stefani. She also takes on both lead and rhythm guitar duties. Her versatility shines on the up-tempo rap laced “Judas” and the bruising blues rocker “Don’t Tell Me Just Love Me.” The band complemented her vocals, playing full throttle but never to the point of drowning her out.

She got the attention of the over 50 crowd midway, announcing “This is an old 70s rock song we love to do.” The crowd only needed a few bars to recognize Gary Wright’s 1975 classic “Love Is Alive.” which they executed in classic rock style.

Lauren Monroe and her legendary husband; Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen then took the stage. The duo played a finessed set featuring Monroe’s mix of Americana, blues, and rock. There were no displays of arena booming drums or solos.  Allen played with the texture of a jazz drummer, appropriate for Monroe’s more mellow catalogue which featured “Big Love” and “Under The Wolf Moon.” The presence of a pedal steel was a welcome addition in the very capable band.

The hardest rocking portion of the show came courtesy of an Australian artist most of the crowd had little familiarity with. Orianthi is a 35-year-old guitar virtuoso with massive street cred. Michael Jackson handpicked her to be his lead guitarist on the ill-fated 2009 “This Is It” tour. Later that year she played in Carrie Underwood’s band   at the Grammys.  Her guitar work was nothing short of magnificent whether it was the deftness on the angst ridden “According To You” or the shred fest of “Impulsive” on her signature SJ-200 Gibson acoustic. She challenged the structural integrity of the venue throughout the set.

Just prior to headliner Rita Wilson’s set, Percussionist Sheila E. was given the Impact award for her ongoing work with the event.

Rita Wilson mentioned what a personal cause the show was for her as a breast cancer and Covid survivor. She is portrayed as a songstress and a champion of the everywoman and is known for her original ballads. Lesser known is her work with the likes of artists ranging from Audioslave to Patty Smyth. Much like her husband Tom Hanks, her charisma is infectious and instantaneous. She entered stage right with her long hair flowing and a beaming smile.  She let her inner rocker loose with an energetic set as the standing room crowd on the floor grew ever larger. You can dance and make the rock and roll hand sign at a Rita Wilson concert and you would fit right in. Who knew?