[The Nicks Fix]


A Gold Dust Comeback

Stevie Nicks resurrects her future by mining her past

MUSIC REVIEW: Stevie Nicks. Jones Beach Theater. The lead singer of Fleetwood Mac ensures a successful comeback by keeping things conservative. Seen Sunday.

By Marc Ferris

IN HER MERCURIAL CAREER, Stevie Nicks has experienced exhilarating highs and embarrassing lows.

After Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 as lead chanteuse, her songs helped catapult the group to the top of the charts. In the early 1980s, Nicks forged a successful solo career, but by mid-decade her frail vocal chords often cracked onstage and she checked into the Betty Ford Clinic for substance abuse treatment. Over the past decade, moreover, she gained so much weight that she looked like a different person.

Capitalizing on the nostalgia craze that spurred last year's successful Fleetwood Mac reunion, Nicks, 50, is attempting to resurrect her reputation with her "Enchanted" tour. The timing is certainly opportune, since retro-mania is jump-starting an abundance of moribund careers.

It's easy to dismiss this gambit by lumping Nicks with the surfeit of anachronistic acts that are returning to the limelight after long absences. Yet where the art-rock excesses of Emerson, Lake and Palmer have few discernible disciples, for instance, Nicks' mystical feminism indirectly spawned a spate of spacey, ethereal performers who are bringing folk-rock to the masses in the 1990s, including Jewel and Sarah McLachlan.

At Jones Beach, Nicks proved that she has learned from past mistakes and toned down her act. Once a one-woman metaphor for musical and personal excess, Nicks kept her twirling to a minimum and grounded her gruff, reedy alto in the lower registers, even in the song "Rhiannon," whose vocal parts once soared.

Still, trademarks of yesteryear included an assortment of scarves, which hung from three mike stands and even tumbled from her tambourine. She also donned a series of sequined shawls that shimmered in the lights, and her arrangements, especially of Fleetwood Mac stalwarts like "Dreams" and "Gold Dust Woman," remained faithful to recorded versions. A rollicking "Stand Back" paid homage to the disco era with thumping bass, pounding drums and strobe-light effects.

Nicks seemed comfortable, even when making veiled references to past foibles. Introducing "Garbo," for instance, she joked that "great tragedy makes for really nice songs" and she exhorted the crowd to "take care of yourselves; I would like to be able to do this again, otherwise you banish me to the land of nothing to do."

During her finale, "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You," she emphasized the line "I want you to remember me," then wandered to the lip of the wide stage and pressed flesh like a seasoned politician. After gathering an armload of gifts, she thanked the enthusiastic audience and seemed to be genuinely grateful for a second chance.

Boz Scaggs, another throwback who isn't ready to throw in the towel, opened. His set included a number of intricate tunes that moved the crowd, which initially greeted him with indifference. One bluesy ballad featured four seamless tempo changes and he led a lusty sing-along during "Lido Shuffle's" anthemic chorus.

The one-time session musician still has a knack for surrounding himself with superb supporting casts. During an extended version of "Lowdown," for instance, bass player Richard Patterson slapped and popped with aplomb, while drummer Oscar Seaton kept things percolating by interjecting complementary interplay.

Scaggs' slabs of urbane, blue-eyed soul stand out as some of the smartest pop music of the '70s, and even though his disappearing act in the 1980s was a disappointment, this performance proved that his talent is still intact.

Marc Ferris is a freelance writer.

Thanks to Victoria Herrick for sending this article to The Nicks Fix.
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