Stevie Nicks reaches into her ‘dark gothic trunk of magical, mysterious things’
By Laura Pearson
Photos: Bobby Talamine
By Laura Pearson
Photos: Bobby Talamine
|Photo Gallery (Number 1) (Number 2)|
We take for granted certain inevitabilities in life: the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, the world keeps on turning, and Stevie Nicks, clad in black platform boots and a billowy black dress, twirls along with it. The 68-year-old, flaxen-haired icon spun into the United Center Saturday night on her 24 Karat Gold Tour. Variously layered with song-specific shawls and capes (gold fringe for "Gold Dust Woman," crepe-like silk for "Bella Donna"), she assured a similarly dressed crowd—lots of middle-aged women draped in shawls and beads to channel the Fleetwood Mac front woman—that amid life's unpredictability, her bewitching brand remains unchanged.
For Nicks, however, this concert would be a bit of a departure. She informed the audience at the top of the show that rather than do "the exact same songs over and over again from every other tour," she would be reaching into a "dark gothic trunk of magical, mysterious things" and perform some material she's never toured with. "It's gonna be a party," she promised. Among those lesser-heard gems were "Gold and Braid," one of several killer demos dusted off for her 2014 album 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault; "New Orleans," a love letter to the city written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; and "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)," inspired by the Twilight movies and necessitating an outfit change into a luxurious coat of faux fur. "Belle Fleur," also from 24 Karat Gold, about the difficulties of holding onto a relationship while living a rock 'n' roll life on the road, surfaced too, as did "Crying in the Night" from the 1973 album Buckingham Nicks, made before Lindsey and Stevie joined Fleetwood Mac.
Scattered among the never-before-played material, however, were plenty of fan favorites: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," featuring the ageless Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (the night's opening act) in the Tom Petty part, "Gypsy," "Gold Dust Woman," "Stand Back" (which Nicks revealed was inspired by Prince's "Little Red Corvette"), and an encore of "Rhiannon" and "Landslide." So the magical gothic trunk, the crowd discovered, is not exclusively home to obscure fare. Nostalgia, in fact, is a familiar presence at Fleetwood Mac shows and an undeniable part of Nicks's oeuvre. On Saturday, it was literally part of the backdrop. While the singer relayed anecdotes of various songs' origins (for example, going over to Petty's house with a can of Hershey's chocolate powder and a guitar "which I never played because of my nails," to write "Starlight") and tales about her former collaborators, animated images of said people would occasionally pop up on a screen behind her. During "Enchanted," the backdrop flashed with vintage photos of Nicks from early on in her solo career. As "Edge of Seventeen" galloped along, images of Prince appeared like apparitions while Nicks followed the song's "Just like the white-winged dove" refrain with lines from "When Doves Cry."
There were also familiar faces: Accompanying Nicks on guitar was her longtime musical director and collaborator, the frizzy-haired, bespectacled Waddy Wachtel, who looks like Larry David if he were in Spinal Tap. There were familiar fabrics too: Out came the same cape from a photo shoot for Bella Donna, Nicks's debut solo album recorded 35 years ago, when she was 33. It's so well-preserved, she explained, because she chose the perfect material: "If you're gonna invest in the stock market, my money is on silk chiffon."
After catching Fleetwood Mac twice on recent back-to-back world tours, and hearing the singer dish to the audience about love affairs from decades ago as if they happened yesterday, I've often wondered if such nostalgia is always at the forefront of her personality—"an attitude of romantic readiness," to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald—or if it's trotted out for performative purposes: the sign of a savvy entertainer who knows how to connect with fans. I suspect it's a bit of both. There's no way she could sing "Landslide" thousands of times and approach the same earnestness (if not the exact same notes—Nicks's powerful contralto voice has declined in range since the 90s) without being a deeply sensitive person but especially without the keen understanding that fans really, really want to hear it. One gets the sense that Nicks is most at home onstage and on tour, whether reinterpreting old demos or obligingly singing the hits.
Time makes you bolder, children get older, but onward she twirls, encircling arenas in songs and stories like a great glittering cape.