Friday, December 08, 2023

Review Stevie Nicks Live in San Diego November 29, 2023

Stevie Nicks spun an expertly calibrated musical web at her San Diego concert

Photos: K.C. Alfred

The veteran solo star and Fleetwood Mac mainstay was engaging throughout her performance at SDSU’s Viejas Arena, which benefitted from an unusually clear and well-balanced audio mix in a venue long noted for its booming acoustics and slap-back echo.

Stevie Nicks has been in a select class since she sang and spun her way to stardom in the mid-1970s as a member of Fleetwood Mac. Five decades later, she has risen to an even more select class as her often-stirring Wednesday night concert at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena reaffirmed.

Along with fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Bonnie Raitt, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry of Blondie and San Diego native Ann Wilson of Heart, Nicks is among the very few women artists who rose to prominence in the ‘70s who continue actively touring and recording in their 70s. Moreover, Nicks is the only one to be inducted twice, first with Fleetwood Mac in 1998, then as a solo artist in 2019.

That unique distinction could have allowed her to rest on her laurels at Viejas Arena, where Nicks last performed in 2018 on what appears to be the final tour by the now-dormant Fleetwood Mac. At 75, she could have easily just picked up her presumably hefty paycheck — the 8,000-seat arena was at near-capacity — and coasted through a low-gear, cruise-controlled show.

But the husky-voiced troubadour sounded like she still had some things to prove Wednesday, performing with palpable conviction throughout. And when she sang the refrain “I don’t want to stop now” as her 1981 hit, “Edge of Seventeen,” built to a mighty climax — 90 minutes into her nearly two-hour performance — it sounded more like a vow than an aspiration.

“Thank you so much for being a part of my life. I’ll see you again, I promise,” Nicks told the cheering audience when the song concluded.

That promise came true minutes later when she returned to the stage for three encores. But it’s likely Nicks was referring to a future tour, since she clearly was enjoying herself at least as much as her audience. The enthusiastic crowd included a significant number of women — younger, older and in between — whose concert attire paid homage to looks Nicks popularized back in the 1970s and 1980s, including leather and lace, top hats and enough capes and shawls to stock a store or two.

Accordingly, when Nicks briefly left the stage several times during her 17-song set, it was to exchange one cape for another. Her microphone stand was decorated with two black scarves, a trademark since her early “witchy woman” Fleetwood Mac days. To cheers, she happily modeled what she said was her original “Bella Donna” album-cover cape.

In her introduction to the 1982 Fleetwood Mac favorite, “Gypsy,” Nicks recalled how she and guitarist-singer Lindsey Buckingham — then her paramour — rose from obscurity to fame after they joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975. The couple quickly went, she noted, from earning $200 a week, to $400, to $800, to $1,500, to $500,000 a year, and more.

“We got rich, fast!” Nicks affirmed. She added that, when she longed to relive her days as a struggling musician working as a waitress, she would “put my mattress on the floor.”

Nicks spoke freely between most of her selections, but it wasn’t the kind of quick, impersonal banter one often hears at concerts.

She warmly recounted first meeting and singing with Tom Petty on her 1981 solo hit, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a collaboration instigated by Jimmy Iovine, her producer and boyfriend at the time. Prior to her potent version of the Stephen Stills-penned 1967 Buffalo Springfield hit, “For What It’s Worth,” Nicks encouraged her fans to vote in the next election.

“I myself never voted until I was 72,” she said. “I was busy! I was busy being famous ... I didn’t want to do jury duty.”

Accompanied by a polished six-man band and two female backing vocalists, led by guitar ace Waddy Wachtel, Nicks opened the concert with a pair of songs that served as a template of sorts for the evening.

The first was the moody “Outside the Rain,” a choice cut from her 1981 solo debut album, “Bella Donna.” The second was the 1977 Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams,” which in 2020 became an unlikely internet hit on TikTok.

Both were delivered with skill and authority, as were Nicks’ subsequent selections. She wisely didn’t attempt to hit notes no longer in her reach, but infused each song with emotion and meaning. And she twirled just a few times, slowly. But when Nicks stretched out, as she did on an extended version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” that surged with power, her vocal intensity was palpable.

She was equally compelling performing deep solo album cuts, such as her 2011 anti-war lament, “Soldier’s Angel,” as she was when essaying Petty’s “Free Fallin’ ” and her 1975 Fleetwood Mac classic, “Rhiannon.”

The concert’s most poignant moment came at its conclusion. That was when Nicks paid tribute to Fleetwood Mac keyboardist and singer, Christine McVie, who died last Nov. 30 at 79 from an ischemic stroke.

Nicks’ spare version of the wistful love ballad “Landslide” found her accompanied by just acoustic guitar and piano, as vintage photos of her and McVie were shown on multiple LED screens. Nicks didn’t write the “Landslide” lyrics “And I’m getting older too / Oh, I’m getting older too” in tribute to her fallen friend and band mate. But when she sang them Wednesday, they served as an elegy and a world-wise declaration of endurance and resiliency.

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