Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders, at Xcel Energy Center, share the love and celebrate Prince
by Jay Gabler
The Current - View More Photos
by Jay Gabler
The Current - View More Photos
|Photographer Bridget Bennett|
If you could buy stock in musical reputations, Stevie Nicks’s would have been a bargain investment 20, 10, even five years ago. The behemoth popularity of Fleetwood Mac blinded a lot of critics who were too cool for school in the ’70s to the fact that the band’s accessible and sonically pristine creations were underpinned by timeless songcraft, while Nicks’s solo hits like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stand Back” were regarded as video fodder for the MTV era.
Time passed, though, and new generations of listeners continued gravitating towards the music. The Mac attack continued, of course, and critics ranging from tastemaker Jessica Hopper to our own listeners have no problem placing Rumours among the all-time greats.
Meanwhile, Nicks’s solo catalog continued to exert a fascination; not just for those fresh-sounding singles, but for deep tracks like “Think About It.” Writer Emily Gould, who’s gone from a pioneering confessional blogger to an indie-publishing influential, took the title of her 2010 memoir from a lyric in that song: “And the heart says ‘Danger!’/ And the heart says, ‘Whatever.'” Nicks is even sampled on the new Bon Iver album, with permission but, at her request, uncredited: a backstage clip of Nicks singing “Wild Heart” appears in “10 d E A T h b R E a s T
Last night at the Xcel Energy Center, the generously sized audience included a few of the predictably clueless Fleetwood Mac fans (“Play ‘Little Lies’!” yelled the woman behind me, seeming not to realize that’s a Christine McVie song) but many more adoring acolytes who hung on every word of what Nicks has described as a “storytelling tour.”
The tour comes on the heels of a 2014 album called 24 Karat Gold — consisting of rerecorded versions of rarities and demos spanning Nicks’s career — and expanded reissues of her first two solo albums, Bella Donna (1981) and The Wild Heart (1983). From the stage last night, Nicks repeatedly addressed the challenge she’d faced in building a viable solo career while remaining an active member of Fleetwood Mac.
In particular, she described compromising by agreeing to include on Bella Donna one song she didn’t write: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers. Recorded as a duet with Petty, the song became the solo hit Nicks needed, and she was off to the races.
Last night, the crowd roared with approval as a new duet partner sauntered on stage for that number: Chrissie Hynde, whose Pretenders opened the show. The admiration and affection between the two women was clearly mutual as they shared Nicks’s original lead vocal, with guitarist Waddy Wachtel chiming in with Petty’s answering lines about “being your own girl.” Yes, thank you very much, they would.
Nicks isn’t one of the first names typically associated with Prince, but in fact he was an important inspiration who played a key role in her solo career — literally played, as in wrote and performed the indelible keyboard hook for Wild Heart smash “Stand Back.” Nicks played that song after dedicating the preceding number, “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” to “my friend.”
She then recounted how she was inspired to write “Stand Back” after hearing “Little Red Corvette” on the radio during her honeymoon with Kim Anderson; they divorced the following year, but Nicks said Anderson was present at the arena last night. “Whenever I sing ‘Stand Back,'” said Nicks, “Prince is standing next to me.”
(Prince wasn’t the only local hero who got a shout-out: Nicks’s band includes Minneapolis organist Ricky Peterson, and the Pretenders are touring with longtime St. Paul resident Eric Heywood on pedal steel. Both Nicks and Hynde made a point of welcoming their sidemen home.)
As Nicks dug through what she described as her “dark gothic trunk of magical mystery songs,” she had plenty more stories to tell. She brought out “the original Bella Donna cape” (as seen on the sleeve of the “After the Glitter Fades” single) for the album’s title song, and she talked about recording “Starshine” in Tom Petty’s basement. She complained about her Fitbit (“Do we really need to know how many steps we take?”), and she shared plenty of motivational words. “Just reach up there and grab that Bella Donna star!”
Still in strong voice at age 68, Nicks said repeatedly that “dreams really do come true” as she reminisced about her youth in Phoenix, writing the songs that became beloved classics like “Landslide” — a song she called “the story of my life.” Behind her, video screens nested in a proscenium arrangement showed appropriately dreamy graphics: woodland scenes, roiling water, vintage shots of Nicks — including, before the encore, the image of a 1983 flyer from when she played the St. Paul Civic Center, where the Xcel Energy Center now stands.
Hynde, who said during her set that Nicks is “even better than you think she’d be,” summoned some of that earth-mother energy for ballads like “Hymn to Her” and “I’ll Stand By You,” but left seasonal favorite “2000 Miles” on the table in favor of strutting favorites from the band’s early releases. She also played a few songs from Alone, the Pretenders’ new album produced by Dan Auerbach.
The easygoing set — Hynde can summon snarling rage in other contexts, but it’s hard to be too angry when you’re in the presence of Stevie Nicks — offered a glimpse at what it might have looked like if Hynde ever achieved the arena-level fame her talent deserves. The joint bill is a fascinating and gratifying pairing: the uniting of two women from the same generation who forged very different paths to iconic status. Kinks fan Hynde went to London and became a fiercely independent rock pioneer, while Nicks found her way to sunny California and hooked up with a band who’d crossed the Atlantic in the other direction.
On this tour, the two stand together basking in their well-earned admiration. Intent on inspiring others, Nicks sent us off with a blessing. “Play music! Sing! Be loved! Love you!”