by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
'24 KARAT GOLD TOUR'
At the start of her concert, Stevie Nicks announced to a packed Key Arena that this show would be different, that it wouldn't be the same thing she's done on previous tours, either as a solo act or with Fleetwood Mac. And she was right. It was different, quite different.
Pulling out songs that she hasn't performed in decades, or ever, intertwined with fascinating stories about writing or recording them, this was a performance that only the loyalest of Nicks' fans could appreciate.
The music icon opened the concert with 'Gold and Braid,' a bonus track featured on the remastered edition of Bella Donna, and then performed the 1983 hit 'If Anyone Falls' from her second album The Wild Heart, which she credited as firmly solidifying her as a solo act. Dressed from shoulder to toe in black - simple dress with matching high-heeled boots - and blonde hair extending to the middle of her back, the pop-rock superstar instantly drew delightful screams from her admirers.
'I have a lot of family here,' said Nicks, looking out to a full arena. 'So, hi to all my family here tonight!'
Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, who kicked off the evening with a set of their own, joined Nicks for 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around,' replacing Tom Petty on the alternating vocals. The two women, both of whom are considered rock pioneers and a source of inspiration for many female artists, captivated the crowd with a spirited, playful rendition of the 1981 ballad. Longtime friend and collaborator, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, also lent his voice to a couple of verses.
'Gypsy' was ever so beautiful and featured Nicks slowly twirling at the finale of the Fleetwood Mac number, which was also included on the band's most recent tour a few years ago. A pair of album title tracks, 'The Wild Heart' and 'Bella Dolla,' were nicely folded into a medley that saw the legendary singer-songwriter donning the original cape she wore for the Bella Donna vinyl record cover in the 80s, hand-stitched by her mother.
Touching renditions of 'New Orleans,' inspired by the events of Hurricane Katrina, and 'Starshine,' from her 2014 release of re-issued demos and rarities called 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, were performed consecutively just before she sang an emotional version of 'Moonlight' that was dedicated to Prince and included a gorgeous piano intro by Darrell Smith. A story about meeting The Purple One followed, where Nicks shared the experience of writing 'Stand Back' during her honeymoon (with Kim Anderson) after listening to 'Little Red Corvette' on the radio. This led to a phone call with Prince, which resulted in him joining her in the recording studio and laying down the synthesizers on the track.
An extended performance of 'Gold Dust Woman' with Nicks draped in her signature golden shawl got everyone on their feet, as some in the audience swayed their bodies or gently waved their arms in the air to the song's mystical, folky vibe. She closed out the main portion of the show with a longer, bolder version of 'Edge of Seventeen' that featured images of animated, illuminated white doves scattered on the giant screen behind the drum set. Photo cutouts of Prince were also blended into the background during the rock number that included a ripping guitar intro by Wachtel.
Nicks returned from a brief break for an encore, launching into a Fleetwood Mac classic that simply never gets old, 'Rhiannon,' but this was a more enchanting rendition of it, at least from the times I've heard her, or the band, play it on previous tours. It included sorcery symbols in the background, going back to the song's roots, as it was written about a woman possessed by a Welsh witch in the 1972 book by Margaret Bartlett Leader titled Triad: A Novel of the Supernatural. A tender performance of 'Landslide' brought the two-hour concert to an end, another classic penned in Aspen when Nicks was at a crossroads in her personal life.
What made this concert different wasn't that Nicks played a lot of material that she normally doesn't do, but it was that she was totally in her element. Unlike her 2011 appearance with Rod Stewart, also at Key Arena, this time around the stage was all hers. Yes, The Pretenders opened for her, but this was her show and these were her fans, so she wasn't pressured to please anyone else's fan base, or to promote anything; aside from last year's album, from which she performed a few songs that she really wanted to do, Nicks wasn't obligated to sell us any new music by her or Fleetwood Mac.
From her interesting collection of stories to her Prince tributes to the magical imagery that might otherwise freak out a mainstream audience, this is the performance she's been wanting to do for years. And, not only did she look relaxed and healthy and happy, she also sounded better than she did five years ago; she was in her own zone and that's what made the difference.
Kudos are definitely in order to The Pretenders, who blew us all away with a set of favorites that included 'Back on the Chain Gang,' 'Don't Get Me Wrong' and 'My City Was Gone,' as a slick Chryssie Hynde commanded the stage with her strong presence like a raging tigress, such as on an untamed run-through of 'Middle of Nowhere,' where she displayed some cool guitar and harmonica chops, and gritty vocals. Yet she also had the finesse to perform a sentimental version of 'I'll Stand by You,' while wearing a rolled-up-sleeves tee-shirt, tight jeans and shiny black boots with dusty brown hair. They concluded their performance with the big hit 'Brass in Pocket,' as Hynde strapped on a baby blue electric guitar and the crowd sang along to every word.
This was definitely a show that no Nicks' fan should have missed, and if you did there are a few more opportunities to catch it. The '24 Karat Gold Tour' rolls on into the New Year with 20 additional concerts scheduled for Orlando, Reno, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Memphis, San Diego and Portland (on February 28, Moda Center), to name a few. For more information, go to stevienicksofficial.com.
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