BY HOWARD COHEN
Stevie Nicks proved 60 is the new 30, as the rock legend nearly sold out Hard Rock Live near Hollywood Saturday night -- just a year or so after her last appearance at the 5,000-plus seat venue -- with a hit-packed, lively set that found her in good voice and reinforced her stature as a rock and roll original.
Nicks might not move on stage with the gale force drive she tapped into in the Bicentennial year but who, aside from Mick Jagger, still can? Nicks is probably the only performer who can earn a standing ovation for merely twirling on stage, as she did during her third number, Stand Back. But given her familiar songs to draw upon, from a solo career and from her ongoing Fleetwood Mac catalog, and a distinctive voice that's grown richer over time, Nicks plays to full houses because she can. Saturday, she didn't take that blessing for granted. She sounded engaged, delivered all the expected favorites such as Dreams, Stand Back and Rhiannon with clarity and purpose, offered a rarely performed album cut (a mesmerizing How Still My Love, from 1981's Bella Donna) and threw in a few remakes.
Her audience ranged from a 10-year-old who was enjoying her first concert with her mom, to some overheated dude in the rafters who couldn't stop yelling, ''I love you Stevie!'' for most of the 105-minute show.
Still others were here to share memories (and we could here some of their stories because South Florida audiences just can't watch an event without providing a running commentary of their own): There's the first car they drove when, on its AM radio, they heard Nicks sing Rhiannon 33 years ago. Or the time they had big hair in the '80s when Nicks initially sang about a life lived on the Edge of Seventeen.
None of these fans' recollections were quite as musical or endearing as the star's own tales from the stage. In introducing If Anyone Falls, Nicks, whose band features sister-in-law Lori Perry Nicks on harmonies, told how she wrote the 1983 hit after one of her single friends tossed out a hopeful line, ``if anyone falls in love I hope it's one of us.''
''I thought that was such a good phrase I went home and wrote that song,'' Nicks said. Sorcerer, she explained, came about in the interim between the commercial failure of her duo album with ex-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham in 1973 and the pair's joining of Fleetwood Mac on New Year's Eve 1975. A tender Landslide movingly featured a video montage of her father Jess Nicks who died in 2005.
There weren't any major surprises in Nicks' set list. She's opened many of her solo tours with Outside the Rain since her first in 1981 and it was in lead position again. A convincing cover of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll is now a regular encore. Of the two new additions -- Bob Seger's rollicking Face the Promise and Dave Matthews' acoustic Crash -- only the latter cover proved ill-advised despite Nicks' insistence she could sing a male song. She can. But her otherwise exceptional band, led by veteran guitarist/musical director Waddy Wachtel, ran ramshod over its slight melody. When Nicks charitably introduced Crash by saying 'it's the most fun I've had in 10 years,' our first thought was that she needs to get out more.
The uninspired computer-generated effects on a video screen also disappointed but some new tweaks, like a brief electronic keyboard pulse in the bridge of the rocker Fall From Grace, kept her music fresh and stylish. Overall, Nicks delivered a crowd pleaser that sets her up well for her next challenge: a proposed 2009 tour with Fleetwood Mac.