| ShowsStevie Nicks: Spirits Rising From the Dark Gothic Trunk of Lost SongsBy: Sheryl Bryant
Photography by Gabriel Nelson
The Pretenders kick started the Sunday night show with a good ole shot of raucous rock and roll. Chrissie Hynde has kept her figure and her youth and looked really sassy in her white tux and skinny jeans. A few heated songs into her set, she stripped down to a black tank top with the words “Lightning Rod” written across the front. How appropriate. Her voice is still sharp and powerful. A purple screen silhouetted the backdrop of the stage, sometimes flowing with greens and blues. The Pretenders are an all star cast of musicians, several from the Old Country including drummer elite Martin Chambers who hails from Wales and has been with Chrissie for 37 years. From London, England, came the lean and mean James Walbourne who was stellar on guitar. On pedal steel was Eric Heywood, originally from Iowa. The pedal steel guru currently calls Raleigh home. Bassist Nick Wilkinson is also an asset to the Pretenders lineup and is originally from Ipswich, England.
Chrissie fondly remembered and paid a warm tribute to rock and roll legend Chuck Berry who had passed away the previous day. Instead of a moment of silence, she pointed to the sky and asked us to pay reverence to him by getting crazy in the name of rock and roll. The audience would oblige, and gave a standing ovation in Berry’s honor.
Impressively woven into the sixteen song set was the unusual and unique lyrics of “Hymn To Her.” This song was Chrissie at her finest.
Throughout the performance, the five piece band shook the PNC. There was no slackness in either selection from start to finish. Though the band delivered the goods on several other songs, their performance reached its pinnacle with their most familiar hits, and as their show crested, Hynde dedicated the remainder of her set (seven more songs) to Stevie Nicks. Those songs follow:
Talk of the Town
Back on the Chain Gang
I’ll Stand By You
Don’t Get Me Wrong
My City Was Gone (The Ohio Song)
In the Middle of the Road
Brass in Pocket
Twenty minutes after the Pretenders wrapped up a solid performance and maybe even stole the show, a brilliant yellow image of the Sun against a black background faded as all of the band members began to appear, and then Stevie Nicks herself strolled onto the floor. With a guitarist, bassist, pianist, drummer and two backup singers in tow, the stage was set for the evening. Stevie was ceremoniously clad in black attire with her long blonde hair flowing. She would later tell us that the chiffon and silky purple cape she wore, bought in 1981 for a cost of $2000.00, was still in pristine shape after 35 years of wearing it at shows! She appeared to be a few pounds heavier (who isn’t except Chrissie Hynde), but still stunningly beautiful and full of mystique as she unfolded the strategy for the night. She explained she would be singing songs she chose to sing, that this was not to be a conventional set. The desire was fueled from her longing to play songs she was not burned out on and hadn’t played live thousands of times. With a quick “It’s a trip, come take it with me” from Stevie, the audience settled in their seats excited to be a part of the ride.
The journey included some songs from, in her words “the Dark Gothic Trunk of Lost Songs”, a few standards and several unforgettable gems. A testimonial of sorts sometimes preceded and later followed each song. It was a bold move to many in the audience, those with tunnel vision who come only for the hits. But it was a creative way to tell us about her music and her art, and admittedly it gave us more of a vision into Stevie’s personality. Sometimes the stories were a little intense and drawn out, but they were very personal and she shared them generously. Fond memories of Tom Petty (whom she adores) and life with Lindsay Buckingham (who she had a long lasting relationship with both personally and musically) followed. Tales of her admiration for the late Prince, who she borrowed a track from and put melody and words to a song with; of her working with and subsequent relationship with record producer Jimmy Iovine at Atlantic Records all poured out. Rags to riches stories, like graduating from a broken down Toyota without a reverse gear to a chauffeured limousine were surreal, and made real to us through still shots and videos. She reflected on her innermost thoughts about proving to herself and the world that her solo works Bella Donna and Wild Heart were not flukes . Those who did not know Stevie Nicks the visionary spirit before entering the arena should know a great deal more about her artistry now.
Butterflies, gypsies, vibrant flowers, spheres of light, beads and feathers, white wing doves, night birds, Welsh witches and snow covered hills. Spins and dances, spirits and ghost glances. These are the ever present dreams and themes in the creative works of Stephanie Lynn Nicks.
Highlights of her 2.5 hours show were exceptional. Nicks’ vocals are still clear and utterly and completely her own. There is a quality about her voice that is melancholic and mysterious. It is the key to her ability to magnetically draw her fans in and close to her. Time and space do not allow for me to include the entire show, but here’s a snapshot of the shining moments:
“If Anyone Falls” first released in 1982.
“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks) performed with both Waddy Wachtel‘s and Chrissie Hynde’s vocal accompaniment. (Chrissie Hynde returning to the stage to duet with Stevie on Petty’s vocals)
“Belle Fleur” from the CD 24 Karat Gold, but written in 1971 and rarely if ever performed live. The creative resulting sonata from the Toyota vs. the limousine story.
“Gypsy”. A song for the ages. Sort of an anthem of independence for women, or so I like to think.
The eerie and seductive “Bella Donna” from the album of the same name. Nicks only toured 4 weeks after the LP’s release. To meet her contractual promise and commitment to Fleetwood Mac, who was recording in Paris at the same time, she had to abandon the tour.
“New Orleans”, originally a poem that was written during Hurricane Katrina. It was penned at Stevie’s home in Santa Monica while she was drawing. The television set was on in the background as Louisiana was caught in the throes of Katrina. It was finally recorded as a song in 2010 but never performed live until this tour. Nicks was sensitive to the survivors and those who had lost family, property and more, so didn’t release it for years. This jewel was worth the wait.
“Star Shine”, written in Tom Petty’s basement in the early eighties but not released until 2015.
With its strobing lights and three dimensional kaleidoscope backdrop working to bolster it, “Stand Back” was essential Stevie.
“Crying in the Night”, from the Buckingham Nicks era, by Nicks’ account, written between 1971 and 1973.
“Gold Dust Woman”, as shining and precious as the subject matter it covers.
“Edge of Seventeen”. Complete with the image of white wing doves fluttering on a sky of darkness in the backdrop
Her encore songs: “Rhiannon” and “Landslide”, the latter recorded in 1972, released in 1973 and the song that Stevie says “got them into Fleetwood Mac.” If any song accents the beauty of her voice, it is "Landslide". Each of these songs are traditionally considered crucial to a Stevie Nicks show. Clearly all four songs are like bright eyes into the doorways of her psyche. Both encores were impressive. Missing: "Silver Spring". A to die for song to hear live if you are a serious Stevie Nicks fan, but with 300 plus songs to her name, I should stress that she cannot sing them all!
Nicks put a lot of heart and soul into the performance Sunday night and revealed herself in a big way at PNC. Her band mates are tremendously talented and top notch, so her support system was definitely in place! But it takes courage to veer away from the tried and true. I believe it is fair to say she wanted her fans to know the inspirations and setting behind each song. Sometimes the details got a little tedious for some of the fans in attendance, but overall it was enlightening and as always, she is an enchanting artist. Her encouragement to follow your dreams no matter what others say or think felt genuine. When she ended the show with advice to seek out music in your times of need it really hit home for myself and many in the crowd. Her message to "Turn off the TV and turn on the radio" echoed throughout the Arena, and I for one hope everyone listens.
Thanks to Crystal Pace, Director of Arena Marketing at PNC for approval of a pass to review the shows. www.raleighmusic.com is grateful for this privilege. As a writer/reviewer, I certainly appreciate the opportunity.