Last night, Sunday, November 6, 2016, Stevie Nicks performed her solo 24 Karat Gold Tour at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, with Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders opening. Libro Musica tends to report from significantly smaller venues, and what intimacy that might be lost in such a cavernous near-sold-out venue is all the responsibility of the artists to infuse and maintain.
Both well-seasoned performers with careers spanning over four decades, Chrissie and Stevie both showed up with very personal, rocking, passionate, and yes, intimate performances. Chrissie Hynde’s voice, which I’d first heard on MTV in 1980, was shockingly full and just beautiful. In fact I’d run into a couple who were leaving after Ms. Nicks’ first few songs because her voice to their measurement just could not compare to Ms. Hynde’s. Stevie Nicks’ voice though has a very particular, very different quality that maybe they just don’t get, and hasn’t Stevie Nicks always sounded like a (very sexy) sixty-eight year old? Clearly not true Nicks fans, these two missed out on the rest of the show that just might have made of them the hardcore fans Stevie deserves.
Yes, Stevie and Chrissie are sixty-eight & sixty-seven respectively, yet both made these numbers irrelevant. It’s true that the songstress Stevie is today doesn’t tap into mystical hysteria to the degree she had in earlier decades. There’s less exorcism, and more groundedness, but I’m reminded again that the woman from the 8-track tape I owned as a child in the seventies (Rumours, Fleetwood Mac) knows how to rock and I’d do well to up her priority on my playlists.
Much credit for the ability-to-rock quotient goes to the 24 Karat Gold Tour‘s musical director, Waddy Wachtel, who’s been playing guitar with Stevie on a good deal of her solo turns since her first album with Lyndsey Buckingham, in 1973. Stevie gave him heartfelt props for being her “safety valve” on stage, the one who could always bring her back from an error or musical tangent, and to her favorite pianist, Darrel Smith, who has the priceless ability to follow where a singer goes.
Stevie Nicks’ 24 Karat Gold Tour Band
Waddy Wachtel: Guitar, Musical Director
Scott Crago: Drums
Ricky Peterson: Organ, Keyboards
Darrel Smith: Piano, Keyboards
Al Ortiz: Bass, Guitar, Harp
Carlos Rios: Guitar, Etc.
Sharon Celani: Backup Vocals
Marilyn “Mini” Martin: Backup Vocals
Gold and Braid
If Anyone Falls
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Chrissie Hynde)
Outside the Rain
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac song)
Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)
Crying in the Night (Buckingham Nicks song)
If You Were My Love
Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac song)
Edge of Seventeen
Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac song)
Leather and Lace
Nicks shared with her audience the pride and care she took forming the setlist for this tour. We were to hear songs rarely or never heard live, or never heard in their current incarnation, like “Belle Fleur”. She hadn’t wanted to hurt the Belladonna album producer’s feelings but it just hadn’t felt right as it had ended up on the album. Now was her chance to correct that and dig into it the way her own muse dictated.
We got to hear about how “Leather and Lace” was written by request by Waylon Jennings and his wife, to be about how they’d stuck together through a marriage challenged by life in the music industry, only to find they’d broken up by the time Stevie had finished it. And that she was starstruck by her first boyfriend after Lyndsey Buckingham, Don Henley, who she was with while writing “Leather and Lace”, and who ended up singing it with her years later to commercial and critical acclaim.
It’s this in-between commentary shared with vulnerable honesty that draws us into her experience, and draws her songs deeper into our consciousness, even those we hadn’t known as well as the others. She called this setlist her Music 101, where she gets to be the teacher, and we were an indulgent class.
We heard a tender song about New Orleans Nicks had written while watching from afar while Katrina happen to that city, the driving “Starshine” originally written with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)”, written about the featured relationship in the Twilight movies that had touched her romantic heart so deeply. I found “Moonlight” to be a surprisingly successful ballad. Stevie’s voice was emotional and evocative, prompting me to find the song again today on YouTube, only to yearn for last night’s incredible live version. It was beautifully staged with gorgeous graphic effects I wanted to take home with me, including a full moon setting (or rising) over water.
But the prize for best graphic projections for the night goes to “Edge of Seventeen”. While Wachtel rocked his guitar over the insistent opening rhythms of this longtime favorite, stark black and white images of trees and doves began to slide by. Then, throughout Nicks’ fervent offering, portraits of Prince throughout his life were displayed. This would have been an epic ending to a great night, I would have been well-satisfied even if she’d not returned for her encore of “Rhiannon” and “Leather and Lace”.
Then “Rhiannon” began, and it seems that Nicks is well aware we actually can’t do without it. She shared that it’s been part of every set she’s ever played since she first performed it. “She rings like a bell through the night, and wouldn’t you love to love her,” floated over us with all the mystery, suspense, urgency, and immediacy that it always has, and I was happy.
A big piece of my 24 Karat Gold happiness was getting to see Chrissie Hynde perform “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Nicks, because it was flat out fun. Hynde was a fine stand-in for Tom Petty, making this song into a chick-power anthem. I’d rather have been fist pumping to it than shooting, but I had a photographer’s job to do, and in retrospect I’m so glad for the captured memories.
In contrast, I must admit that the closing number, “Leather and Lace”, does miss a male counterpart here. It was sung along with Nicks’ backup singers, Mini and Sharon. Fine singers both of them, but there’s an aching magic melancholy to that song that would’ve been better served by even a duet with a single masculine-energy female singer, over the blended trio to which this tour resorted.
My favorite songs of the night were “Stand Back”, a hopped up electronica version I didn’t think could rock harder than it always has (but it did), replete with Nicks’ classic spinning with her shawl outstretched as she always does (we ate it up, as we always have and always will). And, a song that actually was so good I hoped it would go further with some of its inspirations and was left wanting even more.
“Gold Dust Woman” had some super erotic things going on with it, like some middle eastern inspired violin that I wish had not been relegated to just the one section at the top. This version had some extra sexy intensity coming from Scott Crago on drums, I just wish we could have heard and felt the bass line much stronger throughout, and that the song went on for another hour, and that I’d had a hot date next to me.
Stevie Nicks closed thanking her fans, telling us “you’re the bomb”, because we need her to make music as much as she needs to make music for us. “You are what makes me dance across the stages of the world and never get tired of it.” Please don’t ever get tired of it, Stevie.