Warm and generous, like a gracious host opening her home to visitors. Or like a lengthy visit with a favorite aunt that you haven’t seen in way too long – if the aunt wrote killer music, of course.
That’s the feeling I came away with from the Stevie Nicks concert at Talking Stick Resort Arena last night. Nicks launched her 24k Gold Tour in Phoenix on October 25, 2016. Backed by 6 piece band and two vocalists, Nicks delivered a terrific performance to open the tour. Most importantly and impressively, she made each person in attendance feel as if she was performing just for them – as if they were hanging out with her in her living room listening to demo tapes, which it became apparent was really her objective all along.
Warm and generous are appropriate adjectives to describe a number of different aspects of the concert,
- Nicks’ voice was in fine form. Her voice was warm and enveloping, especially on her slower, more melodic songs. While she’s obviously not the same singer she was 40 years ago (and who is), her voice has matured in a way that is velvety and textured with plenty of inflection and nuance. And it remains as distinctively hers as its always been.
- Nicks’ commentary and banter was both engaging and entertaining. Nicks shared the very personal moments in her life that inspired her music and, particularly, her lyrics. Whether it was writing Leather and Lace while dating Don Henley or writing New Orleans while glued to her television watching news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, Nicks shared the backstory for many of the songs she performed. Nicks expressed concern several times that she was talking too much throughout the show and late in the concert even joked about someday doing a show “where I don’t even sing – I’m just going to talk.” The way that she shared the history of her music, however, only served to make both her and her music more personable, approachable and endearing.
- Nicks’ remarks conveyed a sense of vulnerability and exposure that we rarely hear from artists on stage. She was very open about her fears and trepidations going into a tour in which she’s performing songs that she has never previously performed live and in which she’s performing solo without the support of her Fleetwood Mac bandmates. At one point she acknowledged being “a little freaked out” by what she called a “very different” type of show. Hearing Nicks express the types of concerns that all of us have felt at one time or another simply served to humanized her and make her feel kinda’ sorta’ just like one of us.
- Nicks was visibly appreciative of the fans’ reaction to the show and the material she and her musical director had selected. While it’s standard fare for every artist to thank the audience for attending and declare their love for the fans, it seemed just a little more genuine and sincere coming from Nicks. It appeared that she truly didn’t know if the audience was going to warmly receive a concert that featured never-before-played and rarely-played tracks from long ago albums. After finishing the concert with Leather and Lace, Nicks seemed reassured and took an extra moment to thank the audience for letting her know “that this is going to work and be OK” and with that she once again expressed her gratitude.
All of these elements came together in perfect harmony to create a wonderful, intimate concert that pleased both hard-core and casual fans alike. For hard-core Nicks fans, the show simply reaffirmed why they’ve always loved her as much as they do. For more casual fans, the concert gave them a whole lot of reasons to deepen their appreciation for both her personally and her music.
I’ve always thought of Stevie Nicks’ music as big – big voice coupled with big musical arrangements. The staging of the show did a terrific job of matching that bigness. There was a large video screen at the back of the stage flanked by two video “frames” on either side. Large pendant lights dropped from the ceiling to frame the front of the stage. Spotlights illuminated the crowd in front of the stage which had the effect of almost incorporating the first five or seven rows of fans into the staging. Everything about the show was big which did a wonderful job of matching and enhancing Nicks’ performance.
Other highlights from the concert included,
- Nicks performed four songs that she had never performed live on-stage before so it was great being the first audience to hear her perform Wild Heart, Belle Fleur, Crying in the Night and If You Were My Love.
- Nicks performed Belle Donna live for the first time in 25 years and proudly announced that she was wearing the original purple shawl from the photo on the back of the Bella Donna album cover.
- Chrissie Hynde came back out to the stage to perform Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around with Nicks. This could have been my favorite song of the entire set. Hynde and Nicks, each a star in her own right, coming together for this song was as special as it was powerful.
One last note about the concert – and not to read too much into this or make too big of a political statement – but in some ways the show reflected some of the broader undercurrents in American society and culture this election season. It was clearly a celebration of strong, successful women – with Chrissie Hynde leading the all-male Pretenders and Stevie Nicks being Stevie Nicks. But while Nicks’ 35 years of individual success was on full display, there was also a small tinge of the ways that she’s had to navigate the men in her life to get there, especially as reflected in the story she told about writing Leather and Lace. Nicks shared that she wrote the song while she was dating Don Henley but she wrote it on her own and not with him. She’d play the song for him while she worked on it and he’d respond “That sucks” until one day she played it for him and he acknowledged “It’s good.” She responded to him “Ok, so we’re done” and he replied, “We’re done.”
So as we quickly move towards the end of an election period in which a woman is a major party candidate for the first time and may be elected as President of the United States in a campaign that has featured more than its share of overt and subtle sexism, it seems fitting that two strong women triumphantly shared the stage. And maybe that’s why watching them perform Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around was as powerful as it was. The lyrics of the song clearly reflect the tension between the competing attitudes of “I know you really want to be your own girl” (as reflected by one of the major party candidates) and “You need someone looking after you” (as reflected by the other). If the current political environment and this 25-year-old song aren’t a prime example of Oscar Wilde’s declaration that life imitates art then I’m not sure what could ever be. I suspect that the strength and power of the two artists on stage at Talking Stick Resort Arena last night is a clear indicator of how that tension will likely ultimately be resolved.
Review and photos by Greg Cohen
Setlist and tour dates below gallery
All photos © Greg Cohen 2016
The setlist for the concert was:
- Gold and Braid (First time since 2000)
- If Anyone Falls
- Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Chrissie Hynde)
- Belle Fleur (Live Debut)
- Outside the Rain
- Dreams (Fleetwood Mac song)
- Wild Heart (Live Debut)
- Bella Donna (First time since 1981)
- Annabel Lee
- New Orleans
- Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)
- Stand Back
- Crying in the Night (Buckingham Nicks song) (Live Debut)
- If You Were My Love (Live Debut)
- Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac song)
- Edge of Seventeen
- Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac song)
- Leather and Lace
After Phoenix, Nicks’ 24k Gold Tour includes the following dates:
- October 27 – Pepsi Center in Denver, CO
- October 29 – Toyota Center in Houston, TX
- October 30 – American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX
- November 2 – Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL
- November 4 – BB&T Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- November 6 – Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA
- November 7 – Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN
- November 10 – Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC
- November 12 – Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC
- November 14 – Verizon Center in Washington DC
- November 15 – TD Garden in Boston, MA
- November 19 – Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, PA
- November 20 – Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA
- November 23 – Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI
- November 25 – Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT
- November 27 – The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, MI
- November 29 – Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON
- December 1 – Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
- December 3 – United Center in Chicago, IL
- December 5 – Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, NE
- December 6 – Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN
- December 9 – Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC
- December 11 – Key Arena in Seattle, WA
- December 13 – Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA
- December 14 – SAP Center in San Jose, CA
- December 18 – The Forum in Los Angeles, CA