STEVIE NICKS PLAYS HER HOME TOWN
by Serene Dominic
PHOTOS BY: RALPH FRESNO
Full Review at AZ Central
by Serene Dominic
PHOTOS BY: RALPH FRESNO
They say the only predictable things are death and taxes and concerts by veteran rock acts teaming up to fill arenas during a recession.
But this neither deadly nor taxing Heart and Soul Tour pairing Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks which arrived here on tax return weekend, playing US Airways Center Friday, raised lots of preliminary questions.
Which one would be the soul? Sure, Rod has covered a lot of Sam Cooke over the centuries, but Stevie has an equal number of songs about leaving her body. Metaphysically speaking, the soul should be her.
How much time would they actually spend onstage together?
Would they only sing songs they've recorded as duets with other veteran rock acts? They could do a whole set of those alone!
Who would sport more scarves?
And would they sit together on a piano bench and bang out "Heart and Soul," the song most amateur pianists insist on playing?
You say no, but if Rod is serious about this American Songbook thing, he's gotta get around to even that chestnut eventually.
Full Review at AZ Central
Surprise No. 1: Who's On First?
If we went with age before beauty, Rod's got a few years on Stevie, who also had home-court advantage, right? No, it turned out to be lady's first but to put STEVIE NICKS!!!! on stage at the dues-paying hour of 7:30, a time when you would stick on some ungodly local act no one but the promoter has ever heard of, made it seem less like a gentlemanly gesture and more like the outcome of a lost coin toss. So you get to the arena and it's suddenly not a co-headliner tour anymore.
Surprise No. 2
Stevie revealed her favorite rock and roller and it isn't Rod Stewart. It's Tom Petty. And she did one of his not-"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" numbers - "You Wreck Me." And a damn good version it was. It helps that her bandleader was Waddy Wachtel, one of the tastiest guitarists this side of the Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell. Stevie danced around him with outstretched shawl, occasionally totally obscuring his guitar solo from the concert cam lens. If that was Lindsay Buckingham, this would've resulted in a heated argument backstage.
Surprise No. 3
Stevie smiles like a schoolgirl whenever she's singing any number that she didn't write. While Rod encroaches ever further into Tony Bennett's turf, Stevie wants to rock more than a little. Clearly she's happiest banging a tambourine. It must really be a relief for her to sing ANY song that doesn't require her weaving around like a fortune teller to put across.
Surprise No. 4
Her mike stand has more scarves than Rod but less than Steven Tyler.
Surprise No. 5
I missed those high notes on "Rhiannon" a lot less than I thought I would.
But I gotta fess up that without that peak to differentiate the verses and choruses, I didn't know where she was in the song. It's like hearing Dylan do Dylan sometimes.
Surprise No. 6
The love she took down on "Landslide" is now back up. After the 2005 death of her father Jess Nicks, who was the inspiration of the song, she stopped using the video backdrop that included many pictures of him. Now it's been restored and it was not surprisingly the most moving song in the set. Later Rod relates asking Stevie if he could mention that her mom was in the audience tonight but was told mom went home after Stevie's set. Maybe that had something to do with the early start time. After a hard rocking "Edge of Seventeen" and an unreleased voice and piano composition called "Love Is," Stevie departed and a curtain came over the stage bearing a cartoon Rod Stewart riding the a replication of the cartoon Soul Train, prepping us for the cartoon soul that lay just ahead, when Rod opened the set with an animated but less than true to life reading of The O'Jays' "Love Train."
Surprise No. 7
Rod's diminished vocal range hasn't diminished his entertainment value. He's still a charmer, the rock equivalent of a Cary Grant telling us what lucky people we are and making us feel that too. That's really what you're paying for when you buy a ticket these days, a chance to hang with Rod the Mod.
Once you jettison expectations of witnessing anything as soulful as his 1972 rendition of "I Would Rather Go Blind" or anything as hard-rocking as his original rendition of "Twisting the Night Away" (presented here in much more Vegas-y fashion), you begin to enjoy yourself. Unlike Ronnie Wood's new boss, Stewart doesn't have to front The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band night after night. He can get by with whatever version of growing old gracefully Rod feels like serving up. Tonally his voice was actually better sounding than it has been in years and yet you wish whoever was doing the sound would just push the faders up because unless Rod pushes the notes out, which he is still occasionally capable of, it's hard to hear him over the band, even on a ballad like "Downtown Train."
His best vocal moments were the most quiet, "The First Cut Is the Deepest," "You Wear It Well" (still sounding good nearly 40 years later and yes, it hurts to actually say that) and Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You." Like Van the Man, Rod occasionally turns vocal duties over to his band, leaving the stage so they can do an American Idol cover of Anita Ward's cover of "Knock On Wood." Rod gives each backup singer a spot to shine at the end of "Rhythm of My Heart," adding, "I used to be able to sing like that until I had sex."
Surprises No. 8, 9 and 10
His band contained sexy female sax, trumpet and fiddle/mandolin players. Hot legs? They had 'em. So did all three female backup singers. Even the piano had hot legs. During his rendition of "Some Guys Have All the Luck," the video screen showed a cartoon slot machine ringing up three images of the late Robert Palmer, who had an earlier hit with this song. But it is Rod who had all the luck since he not only hasn't died but was able to take Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video and make that dream of a girl band his reality.
Surprise No. 11
The Rod song Stevie picked to duet on was "Young Turks."
Even a few keys lower than the original recording, both singers seemed ill-at ease with this one, as if you were watching your neighbors at a karaoke bar trying it on for the first time. And yet, it was a more endearing performance than this lousy song ever deserved.
Surprise No. 12
The Stevie song Rod picked to duet on was "Leather and Lace" - a more suitable fit, sounding like it could've slotted on one of Rod's early Mercury albums. Rod, ever the joker, simulated pulling down panties during the "You give me your lace" bit.
Surprise No. 13
Rod can still kick a soccer ball. He reached the back of the hall and as high as the corporate boxes of US Airways. I thought we'd never see that again when he took up with Cole Porter.
Surprise No. 14
Nothing at all from any of the American Songbooks. Unless you want to count his lone dip into Still the Same: Great Rock Classics of Our Time. And what does he pick? "It's a Heartache," a cover of a Bonnie Tyler imitation of early Rod Stewart. And he has to stop and restart the song. "I forgot to come in because I was too busy pulling up me trousers." Or maybe he was too busy watching irony boot him in the backside.