Monday, June 23, 2008

Stevie Nicks keeps on rockin' (Boston Review)

By Jay N. Miller
For The Patriot Ledger
Posted Jun 23, 2008 @ 01:16 PM

QUINCY — Stevie Nicks’ star quality continues to shine unabated, even if some of the vocal subtleties have changed.

Nicks, who turned 60 a month ago, and her 10-piece backing band delighted a near sellout crowd of about 4,600 Sunday at Bank of America Pavilion with a two-hour show that touched on all phases of her career, and added a couple of surprises.

With a band led by longtime leader Waddy Wachtel on guitar (who also served as Warren Zevon’s bandleader), and including such rock stalwarts as Scott Plunkett on piano, Ricky Peterson on organ, Lenny Castro on percussion, and Carlos Rios on second guitar, Nicks boasts one of the best groups anywhere. The arrangements stuck close to the hit versions of her songs, but extended many into gloriously pulsating workouts that had the throng singing and sweating along.

One minor detail was that Nicks’ voice seemed to be harder than usual, without the velvety quality that marks some of her biggest hits. This could just be from the strain of the current tour, and it didn’t detract from the material as much as just give it a new twist. It wasn’t so much Nicks’ emotional vulnerability that the vocals conveyed, as perhaps in the original renditions, but a kind of world-weary resilience born of a lifetime of experience.

“Stand Back” was the rumbling opener, with Nicks appearing in a red shawl flecked with gold, over a black pant suit. Frankly it took most of this hard-rocking song to get the sound balanced, as the drums were burying everything else early on. By the throbbing rocker “Outside the Rain,” Wachtel’s slide guitar and the rest of the superb band were coming through loud and clear. Nicks played with the lines in “Dreams,” dragging the tempo a bit as the crowd sang the chorus to that Fleetwood Mac mega-hit gleefully.

“If Anyone Falls” from 1983 was an apt example of the different vocal sound, as that tune’s delicate trilling lines of enchantment became more stark, open imperatives. Nicks explained she had done a live show for PBS, which will be released this summer, and wanted to cover a favorite songsmith. Her take on Dave Matthews’ “Crash Into Me” was done with just two acoustic guitars and her backup vocalists, for an effect that was both more reflective and more sensual.

Plunkett’s lovely piano interlude introduced “Rhiannon,” as just a piano/vocal duet, that soon took off into a pounding rock charge that electrified the arena.

Nicks reminisced about her days waitressing and songwriting at night, in introducing ‘73’s “Sorceror,” and backup singer Sharon Celani provided the second half of what was a dual vocal on the ballad. Bob Seger’s “Face the Promise,” a tune about life on the road Nicks claimed she hadn’t sung for 25 years, was probably the night’s hardest rocker, with a fiery Wachtel solo.

Since her father’s 2005 death, Nicks has been doing “Landslide” as an acoustic tribute to him, with photos from their life together. Sunday’s was done with just Wachtel’s finger-picking accompaniment, and turned into a communal hymn with the crowd singing along quietly.

“In the Still of the Night” and “Edge of 17” were the pulse-pounding rockers that finished the regular set. Nicks returned for a blistering run through Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ’n’ Roll,” wearing her Mad Hatter’s chapeau.

Finally Nicks ended with a softly moving “Has Anyone Ever Written About You?” as pictures of soldiers flashed on the screens. Nicks has been working with the USO since 2004, and has sponsored an effort to provide iPods full of music to returning, and especially wounded, service personnel.

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