[The Nicks Fix]

Orange County Register
July 29, 1998
by Ben Wener
Without the Mac, the real Stevie Nicks back

Review: Much more alive than during last year's Fleetwood Mac jaunt, she offers a fitting career overview in an L.A. show.

The bottom line: It's better to do your self-examination alone.

For close to two years now, Stevie Nicks -- that gypsy queen of Cali-rock who put the "emo" in "emocore" long before anyone dreamt it -- has been entrenched in her own retrospective, wading through her megahits and many flops to make some sense of her checkered 50 years. Only now, however, does she seem to fully appreciate her past, and has begun to fuse it to a (marginally) forward-looking present.

Last summer, when she was in the midst of the ultimately overhyped and bloated Fleetwood Mac reunion tour, Nicks appeared listless, bored, mostly going through the motions after that first MTV taping. Only during "Silver Springs" did she come alive -- and why? Because it was one song she hadn't already played to death in her own shows in the decade-plus since leaving the mighty Mac.

So at first the release of "Enchanted," a three-disc box set of Nicks' solo output, seemed equally redundant and cash-grabbing. Not true anymore. After the singer's surprisingly strong two-hour set Monday night at Universal Amphitheatre (she also plays Friday at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre), it seems a more accurate encapsulation of her odd allure.

"Rumours" is brilliant, sure, but its anguished sentiment doesn't apply so much anymore. Now Nicks does "Gold Dust Woman" and "Dreams" and "Rhiannon" (and she will always do them) not just as a concession to fans but to quickly sum up a moment -- but only one moment -- in time.

Actually, even the strongest of her songs seem of another era now. So it is that Nicks has cleverly devised a captivating overview of her career -- spanning from one of her earliest tunes ("Rose Garden," which she wrote at 17 and is not to be confused with the 1970 hit) to recent reflective pieces such as "Twisted." It's precisely the sort of show Fleetwood Mac should have put on last year -- and at half the price (at least), Nicks' stylish evening is a bargain.

Sure, Nicks' show is overtly crowd-pleasing in spots, it's often more than hackneyed and though her adoring fans will never admit it, there's simply no need for her to take so many extended breaks merely to change shawls. (Never mind that the stage set, something akin to Grand Central Station redesigned by Laura Ashley, was a bit overdone, even for Nicks.)

And even two guitarists couldn't compensate for the unerringly deft Lindsey Buckingham. (Mick Fleetwood unexpectedly showed up for a belabored drum solo before "Edge of Seventeen," but that's not quite the same thing.) Nicks herself isn't what she once was, often leaving some of those killer high notes to her backing vocalists.

Still, she was more playful, more alive and far more passionately committed Monday night than at any of the Mac shows here last year. Time will tell whether she has it in her to push her own well-sealed envelope further. In the meantime, this well-conceived journey-through-the-past-smiling delivers on nearly every front.

Boz Scaggs was plenty impressive during his 50-minute opening set, especially during a soaring take on "Loan Me a Dime." Abetted by a crack six-piece band, Scaggs effortlessly reminded how considerable and underrated a guitar talent he is during R&B workouts such as "I've Got Your Love," while also grooving through his finely aged hits (including and excellent "Lowdown") in high fashion. (Michael McDonald will open Friday night in Irvine.)

caption under picture of Stevie singing (picture by Kelly A. Swift)
Stevie Nicks: The singer offers an introspective overview of her career, with only a few obligatory Fleetwood Mac tunes.

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