[The Nicks Fix]

Houston Chronicle
August 5, 2001
Stevie Nicks rocks royally

Three dozen years removed from the edge of 17, Stevie Nicks remains rock's reigning witchy woman. At 53, she may swirl more slowly in her lacy shawls, but her voice remains strong, her material has proven remarkably durable, and she still packs them in.

At a nearly full concert Saturday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Nicks' return to the road proved as successful as when she rejoined Fleetwood Mac for a triumphant reunion tour in 1997. That's a great group, but from a crowd-drawing standpoint, they needed her more than she needed them.

For her 100-minute set on a stage dressed with columns, vases and flowery flourishes, Nicks was backed by a tight nine-piece band, including longtime sidemen Waddy Wachtel and Carlos Rios on guitars, Lenny Castro on percussion and Sharon Celani and Mindy Stein on backing vocals.

Nicks wisely opened with vintage hits she wrote for Fleetwood Mac or for her career as its best-selling solo artist. Wachtel sang Tom Petty's parts for Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, followed by the rollicking Enchanted, which was played by the numbers yet was crisp and spirited.

After the inevitable Dreams and Gold Dust Woman, she began sprinkling the set with material from her new album, Trouble in Shangri-La, starting with the lilting love song Every Day.

To introduce such songs, Nicks could be chatty without slowing the show -- she spent more time retreating offstage to tweak her outfits than she did gabbing. But her intros were warm and to the point, as for the newly recorded Sorcerer, which she wrote in the early '70s when she fearfully moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

She then energized the standing, adoring crowd with Rhiannon, for which Wachtel cut loose on guitar but was buried in the mix. Rios was a far stronger ax man, ably stepping in for parts Lindsey Buckingham would have played.

The best of Nicks' new songs was Too Far From Texas, co-written by Sandy Stewart of Houston, whom Nicks acknowledged in the crowd. A country-flavored, rhythmic rocker, its melody recalls the '80s single Saddest Victory by Stewart, who also joined Nicks to write If Anyone Falls.

Other new songs were less satisfying; though handsomely produced, the material on Trouble in Shangri-La never will be confused with Nicks' early solo albums. But she ended strongly, if predictably, with Edge of Seventeen.

It began with a tedious percussion jam echoing '70s rock excess as Nicks took yet another break offstage. But once she returned, the song built to an urgent finishing kick, for which her "Still the same" refrain certainly fit: The song sounded the same, and she took the same stage-side walk as always, to shake hands and accept gifts from fans.

But the upside was that her bows left the band free to cut loose, and they performed the most inspired rock of the night. Nicks may be beyond wailing the way she once did, but as rock troupers go, you can do far worse.

She sustained the energy with a rocking encore of I Need to Know, followed by the pensive Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You, which does the same thing for Nicks as Songbird does for Fleetwood Mac: It calms the crowd and closes the show with tenderness and class.

Nicks was preceded by Austin alternative-rocker Bob Schneider, who opened his 44-minute set with engaging and strongly melodic songs, then digressed with folksy lectures and questionable showmanship.

Our advice to Schneider is to quit instructing the crowd about standing, dancing or singing and get on with his job of making music that's good enough to inspire it.


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