Sunday, February 03, 2008

Nicks Rocks Cal State Fullerton Fund-Raiser

Still striking as she approaches 60, this year's 'Front & Center' headliner served up a lively performance for the annual event.

Stevie Nicks is magical, gorgeous, simply mesmerizing – it's unbelievable she will celebrate her 60th birthday this year. At an age when most of her peers have retired, it's as if she's just getting started.
Nicks still looks amazing – nearly flawless porcelain skin, a fierce mane of long blonde hair and a body that still fits into those corset dresses quite nicely. Her deep, sensual voice didn't crack once Saturday night at Honda Center in Anaheim, as she belted out lyrics with ease to close Cal State Fullerton's annual "Front & Center" gala fund-raiser. She worked the crowd over with her eyes, tossing seductive glances at video cameras as she pranced around the stage, slipping into her signature twirls, slapping her tambourine and innocently playing with her flowing skirts and scarves.

Granted, ardent fans had to first endure the usual "Front & Center" salutations.

Now in its 13th year, the program has hosted a variety of talent, including sets from Chicago, Gladys Knight, Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole, interviews with Walter Cronkite and Whoopi Goldberg, speeches from Colin Powell and the late Christopher Reeve, and comedy from Bill Cosby. Before each headliner, however, there are musical skits staged by Cal State Fullerton's performing-arts students, often overly lengthy explanations about the university (now celebrating its 50th anniversary) and chatter from the event's alumnus MC, this time "Desperate Housewives" producer and creator Marc Cherry.

Curiously, once the crowd in the packed arena was patiently awaiting the Hall of Famer's entrance, the house lights would lower, then brighten again, while background music (at times blasting "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child and "That's the Way Love Goes" by Janet Jackson) would die down over and over again, each time giving false hope that Nicks would appear. Eventually the waiting paid off, of course, as Nicks materialized through a hazy fog on stage, smiling wide-eyed as she stormed into a rocked-out version of "Stand Back."

She smoothly transitioned between songs – including a playful take on Dave Matthews Band's "Crash" and a kickin' version of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "I Need to Know" – while occasionally pausing for storyteller moments to give background about key tracks. Before slowing things down with "Landslide," for instance, she admitted to the crowd that the song was not about her father, but he thought it was, so she let him believe it. She dedicated the song to all of the fathers in the audience – and the crowd responded by whipping out cell phones and lighters to slowly wave in the air as she sweetly sang the lyrics, bringing some to tears.

Every three or four songs, Nicks would disappear for a few minutes for a wardrobe change, switching up from black velvet to black leather to black lace, all with assorted colored scarves. Each time she left the stage, it allowed her band time to shine – via beautiful piano transitions, orgasmic percussion battles and, as an intro to the bewitching "Gold Dust Woman," a searing guitar solo.

For her part, Nicks exuded elegance and maturity as she confidently fired through "Dreams," "If Anyone Falls in Love" and "Edge of Seventeen," despite the fact that several fans could be heard screaming out the wrong lyrics to that last one – "just like the way we love" instead of "just like the white-winged dove." But this was mostly a die-hard crowd, dozens of female admirers clad in true Stevie garb – crushed-velvet outfits, cinched corsets, flowing gypsy skirts and black gloves in leather, satin or lace.

Nicks never disappointed, and ended the evening with a bang - a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" after a final wardrobe change into a flowing white-and-black top and a chunky top hat with a giant feather sticking out of it. The song brought the crowd to its feet once more, as hordes of people rushed the stage to dance and hopefully touch Nicks as she graciously reached out and shook at least 50 hands eagerly extended in her direction.

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