June 6, 2005
Stevie Nicks, Don Henley
By Deborah Wilker
Bottom line: Dream bills don't get much better than this magical pairing, which deserves a longer run.
PNC Garden State Arts Center
Big-ticket heritage acts have been propping up the listing concert business for years now, and if this is the way it must be, the industry would do well to take a close look at a novel (but too-brief) new tour from Stevie Nicks and Don Henley -- one of the most magical rock shows in a long while.
More than just the standard double bill, these songwriting legends (and fronts for two of the greatest bands of all time, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles) work hand in hand, interpreting each other's stuff in a way rarely done by truly big stars.
On the second night of this 10-date swing, Henley, up first, got things rolling with some dry wit and a well-received "Witchy Woman." Quickly he was into the big stuff -- "Hotel California" -- during which Nicks sauntered in from the wings to join him, setting off the kind of frenzied, organic ovation that touring's modern-day corporate labs simply cannot manufacture.
Superstar pairings are best, of course, when there is mutual admiration between the artists and a career path that is somehow parallel yet also different -- as with Billy Joel and Elton John. Tortured friendships are also great for the boxoffice (Eric Clapton and George Harrison) -- and if the two were also lovers back in the day, well, that's a grand slam.
Henley and Nicks -- both pioneering California rockers -- were indeed an item in the late 1970s (after her split from FM bandmate Lindsey Buckingham) and have remained friendly. While they don't quite set off the unrequited sparks that the Nicks/Buckingham-led Mac still produces to this day, there is a familiarity about them that lends both comfort and renewal to hits such as "The Last Worthless Evening" (his) and "Gold Dust Woman" (hers).
On this particular night, there was also a defiant "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," a wistful "New York Minute" and their lone hit together, 1981's "Leather and Lace."
Each also worked hard separately. From his seemingly inexhaustible supply of frothy radio singles and sturdy album tracks, Henley pulled out "Dirty Laundry," "Life in the Fast Lane" and the brilliant "Heart of the Matter." Nicks, who only gets better with age, countered with an ethereal "Rhiannon," and dramatic versions of "Stand Back," "Edge of Seventeen" and others from her long career, all set off by her usual costume array of flowing ribbons, scarves and ponchos.
Though this terrific evening ran almost three hours, there was still a lot missing, including the rumored set-closer "Desperado" -- something they're bound to get to if this limited run becomes the full-fledged tour promoters are said to be banking on for next year.