|PHOTO BY: CAESAR CARBAJAL|
Steve Nicks, The Pretenders connect to fans with intimate, rare songs set at Amalie Arena
BY: GABE ECHAZABAL
Stevie Nicks has nothing to prove. The famed 68-year old free spirited chanteuse has been singing professionally for most of her life and has deservedly earned the distinction of being one of the most successful female artists of the rock n’ roll era. Whether fronting the enormously popular band Fleetwood Mac or as a prolific solo artist, Nicks has garnered one of the most faithful and passionate fan bases of all time. She sounds like no one else in the biz and her unique look, style, fashion sense and mystical, magical aura are all part of what sets her apart from everyone else.
So, with that type of dedicated audience hanging on her every move, it’d be so easy for Nicks to hit the road between gargantuan Mac tours and wheel out a trite greatest hits package tour without much thought or effort. But this is where Nicks differs from the rest of the pack: for her current jaunt around the globe, the newly launched “24 Karat Gold Tour” (named after a recent release consisting of many previously unreleased songs and recordings), Nicks has instead opted to delve deep into the vaults to offer her most loyal an opportunity to revel in songs that even the most ardent fan has no doubt ever heard played in concert.
In bold, brave fashion, the still ravishing and elegant Nicks blew the gold dust off of many rare, obscure songs and cleverly mixed them slyly amongst some of her most well-known material Wednesday night at her recent tour stop at the cavernous Amalie Arena and kept a rapt audience engaged for over two solid hours.
Clad in her trademark black long sleeved blouse, skirt, platform boots and fingerless gloves, Nicks emerged to a roar of applause to the strains of new wave band Missing Person’s quirky 1983 hit “Destination Unknown”. Her blonde, flowing, carefully coiffed locks starkly contrasting her dark ensemble, Nicks looked the picture of stature, class and style...and she hadn’t even sung a note yet.
Opening an arena show with a mostly unknown tune is a daring move indeed; but don’t tell Stevie Nicks that. The night kicked off with “Gold and Braid”, an outtake from her 1981 debut solo album Bella Donna which sounded fresh and inspired. In fine vocal form on only the fifth show on this current tour, Stevie looked and sounded spectacular as she cruised through her catalog and offered up plenty of clever anecdotes and colorful stories in between songs in sort of an informal “Storytellers” format.
Fronting an eight piece band including two backup singers and longtime collaborator and musical director, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Nicks lit up the hockey arena more boldly and brightly on her own than her elaborate lighting display possibly could. Framed by a massive faux movie screen backdrop which flashed images and colorful designs for the duration of the night, Nicks was in full control of the pacing and the momentum of the performance all night long.
“After reading so many letters, I’ve decided on playing songs that are not often played. At my age, it’s like starting over!” she eagerly proclaimed when giving insight into the type of set list she’s opting to stick to for this run of shows. From the most casual fan to the diehards, Stevie’s set list was aimed to please just about everyone who filled the majority of the seats in the venue…and boy, did it.
Whether dipping back into the Mac catalog to deliver a note-perfect rendition of the classic “Dreams” or giving the nod to more recent material like “Annabel Lee” or “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)” from her last proper studio album, 2011’s In Your Dreams, Stevie’s delivery was every bit earnest and heartfelt. She seemed gutted and reluctant to talk about the untimely loss of musical genius Prince earlier this year when reminiscing about the Purple One and the friendship she shared with him. The thick, pumping electro new wave strains of her dance hit “Stand Back” (originally recorded with uncredited keyboard work from Prince himself) were met with deafening applause and the whole place rising to its feet to dance and bop along.
The night’s personal jaw-dropping moment came, however, when Nicks decided to go all the way back the very beginning and perform a selection from the rarely acknowledged and sadly forgotten Buckingham Nicks album from 1973. Her first recording, with then romantic and musical partner Lindsey Buckingham, is somewhat of a rare gem for fans of both performers that is known as more of a conversation piece than the true pop gem it really is.
“Crying In the Night” from that album was a welcomed addition to the truly imaginative and unpredictable song list Nicks treated fans to on Wednesday. Joking about the time that’s passed since that sadly overlooked album was released during their pre-Fleetwood Mac years, Nicks reflected on that period forty-three years ago and gleefully announced “…and we’re still alive!” and she proved that all night long.
Alive and very much kicking is she, as she exquisitely displayed during a sizzling set-closing one-two punch of “Gold Dust Woman” and “Edge of Seventeen”.
References to “girl power” and motivational messages throughout the night set the stage for the final number and it’s equally engaging accompanying story. Closing the night with another of her mega-hits, “Leather and Lace”, originally a duet with onetime boyfriend Don Henley of The Eagles, Nicks recalled playing the song for Henley in the mid-70’s when she’d originally written it and being critiqued by him though many re-writes of the verses. Originally written for Country legend Waylon Jennings and his singing wife Jessi Colter, Nicks decided to take the song back from them once they’d announced their imminent divorce before getting to record the song in a display of her self-described girl power.
For Nicks, the ultimate display of that power is just she doing what she does: commanding an arena full of fans, taking them along for the ride of hits and lesser-known songs and displaying her utter showmanship and charisma the whole time. That’s the power of Stevie Nicks and that’s why she’s still held in such high regard by so many.
The same can be said for longtime badass and tough chick Chrissie Hynde and her groundbreaking late 70’s ensemble, The Pretenders. Taking the stage before Nicks (and rejoining her for a solid duet performance of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” during the main set), Hynde, now sporting a graying mop of unkempt hair, sounded every bit the seductive, sultry temptress she’s become known for.
Another highly revered and vital female player in the world of rock n’ roll, Chrissie has never been one to shy away from any challenges and has overcome her fair share of lineup changes and musical paths over her lengthy career. Getting the crowd warmed up with a longer-than-usual 60-minute set, Hynde showcased plenty of Pretenders nuggets along with newer material and carried the load like a real pro. Taunting and ribbing front row patrons into some undecipherable political rants, Hynde looked and sounded relaxed and jovial throughout the set.
“Fuck it…I’m here to have a good time!” she giggled before launching into a red hot, pounding version of “Mystery Achievement” from the band’s stellar self-titled debut album.
Staples like “Middle Of The Road” and the set-closing “Brass In Pocket” were greeted with passionate screams and ovations proving that Chrissie and company, headliners in their own right, have plenty of great material to choose from and that she still knows how to rock a crowd. In tribute to the night’s headliner, Chrissie gushed “This is for Stevie! I love her!” and, by the sound of the roar that greeted that announcement, it was clear that she wasn’t the only one in the room that felt that way.
Stevie Nicks Set List — Amalie Arena, Nov. 2, 2016
Gold and Braid
If Anyone Falls
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Chrissie Hynde)
Outside The Rain
Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)
Crying In The Night
If You Were My Love
Gold Dust Woman
Edge of Seventeen
Leather and Lace