[The Nicks Fix]

Chicago Sun Times
July 12, 2001
Stevie Nicks at the Allstate Arena

July 12, 2001

In theory, it probably seemed like a good idea for Stevie Nicks to invite Sheryl Crow out on the road with her. In actuality, this wasn't merely a good idea--it was a stroke of brilliance.

Crow, a longtime admirer of the Fleetwood Mac vocalist, produced several tracks for Nicks' latest solo album, ''Trouble in Shangri-La'' (Warner Bros). Now she's also supporting her idol onstage. Crow has always been a gifted harmony singer, dating to her early days as a backing vocalist for Michael Jackson. Crow showcased her vocal chops on duets with Nicks, such as the Fleetwood Mac classic ''Gold Dust Woman'' and the new, country-fried tune ''Too Far from Texas.''

Both singers' voices have a charmingly raspy quality, and Tuesday night at the Allstate Arena, they meshed together seamlessly. Whenever the show started to lag (usually because Nicks was performing an album cut from a mid-career solo disc), Crow picked up the pace by trotting out one of her own jangly hits such as ''Everyday Is a Winding Road'' or ''My Favorite Mistake.''

The jovial Crow was clearly comfortable in her role as a side musician, harmonizing with gusto and frequently mirroring Nicks' trademark bewitching, raised arm dance moves. Decked out in sleek black leather pants, Crow, 39, also provided a visual foil for Nicks, 53, who spent the evening rotating through her vast assortment of frilly shawls.

Nicks' dancing and twirling may have slowed in recent years (some of her gestures were oddly robotic), but her voice remains strikingly powerful. On a mauve stage decorated with columns, vases, statues and a plethora of faux flora, Nicks' musical director, Waddy Wachtel, led the black-clad band through its paces. Wachtel, a Los Angeles session ace who has been a Nicks cohort throughout her 20-year solo career, knows how to rock an arena. Wachtel punctuated the proceedings with muscular, garage-rock crunch, as well as more predictable, bent-note guitar solos.

The band devised a creative arrangement for ''Edge of Seventeen,'' transforming it into a percussive, loping jam. Such imagination would have been welcome on ''Stand Back,'' which was marred by a synthesizer-heavy sound that has not aged well since the summer of 1983, when it was a massive hit.

Although she was not onstage for much of the performance, Crow returned for the encore. One of the most satisfying moments was the blustery, full-throated duet on Tom Petty's ''Need to Know.'' In the liner notes to ''Shangri-La,'' Nicks credits Petty for inspiring her to write the new material, so this cover version served as a tribute. Plus, it rocked hard.

Singer-songwriter Jeffrey Gaines opened the show with an overly earnest, overly talkative solo acoustic set. He received a warm response to his cover of Peter Gabriel's ''In Your Eyes,'' two versions of which appear on his recent album ''Always Be'' (Arte-mis).

Bobby Reed


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