July 16, 2001
Stevie Nicks still has aura to enchant fans
By Jonathan Perry, Globe Correspondent, 7/16/2001
MANSFIELD - Stevie Nicks has always been as much a product of our - and her - imagination as she has been flesh-and-blood reality. More a gauzy presence on our radios than anything to do with the cold, hard facts of our lives. That diaphanous persona has lingered and endured for more than two decades now: first as one of the signature voices of Fleetwood Mac, and now as a highly successful solo artist - wrapped in a mystique of her own making - whose star and stock plummeted at the dawn of the 1990s.
Through it all, Nicks has been an alternately revered and reviled artist, embodying the best and worst aspects of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle in all its hedonistic and tragicomic glory. She's gone from iconic bella donna to bloated burlesque act to, ultimately, faerie godmother for subsequent generations of riot grrrls and female rockers. During a galvanizing, and at times poignant, nearly two-hour performance here Saturday, Nicks offered a reminder of why she had once been embraced as the former and why, with humility and gentle authority, she's since assumed the mantle of the latter.
Touring this summer with a versatile 10-piece band (that included, for the first six nights of the tour, guest star Sheryl Crow) in support of ''Trouble in Shangri-La,'' her first album in seven years, the 53-year-old Nicks managed to summon all of her still-considerable gypsy-witch powers to commune with an audience that was both worshipful and unconditionally loving. Playing against a backdrop that suggested a dreamscape of endless blue skies, ocean, and ivy-draped pillars framing the stage, she became an animated part of the surrealist canvas, materializing on stage ensconced in a Victorian-style floor-length black dress flecked with glitter.
Nicks opened with a clutch of classics in a voice that was charcoal and ashes. ''Stop Draggin' My Heart Around'' was first; ''Dreams'' followed a few songs later, and then Crow joined her on stage for an ominous, captivating ''Gold Dust Woman.'' As Nicks sang of shattered illusions and abandonment, dreams and nightmares collided amid the music with the singer as its dark heartbeat and flashpoint.
To her credit, though, unlike other veteran pop acts content to cruise solely on long-vanished triumphs, Nicks did not shy away from her new material. Unfortunately, new tension-free tunes such as ''Planets of the Universe'' and ''Every Day'' paled alongside Nicks staples like the Mac-era ''Rhiannon'' - infused with equal parts silky desire and worldly regret - and ''Stand Back,'' a synth-driven FM anthem that transformed the Tweeter Center into a gigantic throb of a dance floor.
The new stuff also seemed a sallow contrast to Crow's lead vocal turns on a couple of her own hook-filled smashes, the Stones-stung ''Favorite Mistake'' and a breezy version of ''Everyday Is a Winding Road.'' The latter featured Nicks on harmonies and a dose of piquant slide guitar from Nicks's musical director, Waddy Wachtel, who was, as usual, tasteful and brilliant throughout.
But no more so than on an epic and chilling ''Edge of Seventeen.'' The song - which takes the thrill, fear, and desire of wild-hearted adolescence as a narrative jumping-off point - began with Nicks offstage and Wachtel slicing off wickedly chorded slabs of electric guitar, piece by piece. When he finally broke for open ground and the desperation of the song's pulse-racing riff, an entire new world had been created with Nicks at its center. Singing as if nothing less than destiny itself hung in the balance, she held fast to the microphone and to that moment, when the fleeting dreams of childhood give way to the hard fact of everything that comes after.
Opener Jeffrey Gaines delivered a 45-minute solo set of emotive but somewhat generic singer-songwriter balladry that lacked the folk-pop resonance of his earlier recorded efforts.
This story ran on page B7 of the Boston Globe on 7/16/2001.