Friday, March 01, 2024

Review Stevie Nicks Live in New Orleans February 28, 2024

Chatty Stevie Nicks acknowledged and defied the passing of time during New Orleans concert


Less than two years after dedicating 'Landslide' to Taylor Hawkins at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, she sang it for Christine McVie at the Smoothie King Center

Early in her songs-and-stories session at a full Smoothie King Center on Wednesday, Stevie Nicks gave herself and her bandmates a free pass: “If we make a mistake, we just go, ‘We’re old.’”

Superstars of the 1970s, now deep into their seventies, are bowing out. Elton John and KISS have concluded long farewell tours. The Eagles were recently in New Orleans as part of their Long Goodbye Tour.

At 75, Nicks hasn’t said anything about retiring. Nor should she. She is clearly comfortable in her own skin, comfortable being in charge, and comfortable with where she stands in life.

And as she demonstrated Wednesday, she is still committed to quality, to employing real humans to make real music in real time with real instruments, topped by a voice that still sounds real good.

Following the COVID lockdown, Nicks returned to the stage at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. She considered Wednesday’s gig part of the same tour, albeit a tour with an intermittent itinerary.

A set that spanned two hours and 15 minutes managed only 18 songs. Nicks prefaced most with a story as long as the song itself. That verbosity didn’t allow momentum to build across multiple songs strung together.

But it did give fans insight into her thought processes, personality and world view, plus behind-the-scenes glimpses of her life and career.

She recounted long and frequent visits with injured soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Sympathetic to the plight of soldiers, she strongly supports American aid for Ukrainian troops. Her song “Soldier’s Angel” concluded with a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag blazing on the LED screen above and behind her.

She recounted thinking she’d finished recording her 1981 “Bella Donna” album, only to be told by producer Jimmy Iovine that it lacked a proper single.

Not to worry, Iovine said: Tom Petty, whom Nicks idolized but had never met, had written a song that would be perfect for her. An overdressed Nicks showed up at Petty’s studio and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was born.

Forty-three years later, she and her band cranked up a crackling version at the Smoothie King Center, with Nicks emphasizing the final “stop!”

She once thought “Fall From Grace” was “too mean-spirited” to perform. But her perspective shifted: “It’s not mean-spirited. It’s energy.” Sure enough, it was the most energetic and driving song up to that point in the show.

She thanked Stephen Stills for writing Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” in the 1960s “so I could sing it 3,000 years later.” It’s a fine song, but that time may have been better spent with a Fleetwood Mac cut.

In the early 1970s, she and then-paramour Lindsey Buckingham were dirt poor when Fleetwood Mac first hired them. Their $250 weekly checks seemed like a fortune, she said. When those checks increased to $1,000, Nicks considered herself truly rich. After her mother introduced her to the concept of taxes, she and Buckingham hired an accounting firm to handle their money.

Having money and success “is a big deal, but it’s not everything.” She then dedicated “Gypsy” to the “waitresses and waiters and cleaning ladies” who work as hard as she once did.

Even at the height of Fleetwood Mac’s success, Nicks envisioned a solo career with her own band. It would feature two “girl singers” standing up front with her, not in the background. And there they were on Wednesday.

As talkative as she was, Nicks never got around to introducing the bandmembers. That brawny band was led by guitarist Waddy Wachtel. A first-call session guitarist from the 1970s to the present, Wachtel has contributed to at least a couple hundred albums, plus countless live shows.

His extended guitar excursion settled into the chugging riff of “Edge of Seventeen.” Guitars also drove a strong “Stand Back.” As the drummer hammered a big finish on “Gold Dust Woman,” Nicks air-drummed, shook her curls and rocked out.

Just as she did at Jazz Fest, she revived “New Orleans,” a love letter to the city she penned after Hurricane Katrina. “If Anyone Falls” had a satisfying punch to it. She held out and massaged the final “know” in “Dreams.”

Since the 1990s, Nicks has relied on vocal coach Steve Real to keep her hearty contralto in tip-top shape. On this tour, he also joins her onstage to sing Don Henley’s part in “Leather and Lace.” Nicks and Real did the duet justice.

Underscoring just how close her connection was to Petty, a recording of his “Runnin’ Down a Dream” blasted from the P.A. to signal the start of the show. Nicks and the band opened the encore with Petty’s “Free Fallin” as a scrapbook of Petty pictures, including one from Jazz Fest, filled the screen.

A faithful take on the Fleetwood Mac classic “Rhiannon” followed by “Landslide” closed out the night. At the 2022 Jazz Fest, Nicks dedicated “Landslide” to her pal Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters drummer who had recently died.

This time around, she sang “Landslide” for Christine McVie, her longtime Fleetwood Mac bandmate and confidante. As photos of the late McVie faded in and out on the screen, Nicks, accompanied by Wachtel’s light touch on an acoustic guitar, navigated the lyrics’ unflinching acknowledgment of the passing of time.

She is well aware that she is no longer the wild young chanteuse she was in the 1970s. And well aware that she doesn’t need to be.

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