[The Nicks Fix]

Stormy Weather Reviews

April 16, 1998

Stormy Weather '98, happened on April 16 at L.A.'s Willtern Theater. It was a benefit for Don Henley's Walden Woods project and the Thoreau Institute at Walden Pond. The organization has been working since 1990 to preserve the land around Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts where Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote. The singers at Stormy Weather included Sandra Bernhard, Bjork, Natalie Cole, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani and Trisha Yearwood.
Stormy Weather '98

review by Greg (formerly with Modern Records),

I have great news. Stevie Nicks was a sensation. All the Ladies were wonderful. Natalie Cole received a tremendous ovation - just walking onto the stage...because, of course, everyone knows that she can sing these songs brilliantly in her sleep. Sheryl Crow did two numbers from the film "Lady Sings the Blues", and Sandra Bernhard brought down the house (for sheer guts, if nothing else) by doing "Summertime" and a hilarious "Is That All There Is". Joni Mitchell, who closed the show (only Joni and Bjork followed "Our Lady of Arizona"), received an ovation on par with Natalie's, and sang a duet with Bjork, "Stormy Weather", and an early Marvin Gaye tune. She looked stylishly fab.

However...with the 66 piece El Nino Orchestra (which included Mark Isham) to help bring her out, Stevie walked onto the stage wearing an off-the-shoulder, nicely low-cut, brilliantly red to-the-floor ball gown, complemented by a "tasteful" diamond bracelet, to an amazing ovation. She sang a tentative "When Sunny Gets Blue" ...but she was just warming up. She then launched into a rockin' version of the Etta James classic "At Last". She truly brought down the house to a standing ovation, complete with hoots and hollers from the audience (and me!!). I was a lil' nervous after her first number , but she did herself proud with the second number, and I was so proud for her!! What an amazing career turn-around...two years ago, I would never have believed it. She is back to where she belongs...at the top of her game!! She was absolutely the "crowd favorite",and the three friends I attended the show with agreed.

Stormy Weather '98

from Clayre In Tucson

The weather in LA was cool & windy, but it was hot & steamy at the Wiltern Theatre on Thursday night!!! As my friend & I arrived at the Theatre who was in front of us going in but Mick Fleetwood & his wife, Lynn....They were decked out & he was signing autographs....

  • Don Henley opened & closed the DIVA SHOW!!!!
  • Ed Begley was the emcee!!!!
  • The El Nino Orchestra was hot!!!!
  • The Divas all sang "TORCH SONGS"!!!!
  • The Ladies were all dressed to kill and they each sang two songs!!!!
  • Gwen Stefani
  • Paula Cole
  • Shawn Colvin
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Sandra Bernhard
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Natalie Cole
  • Bjork
  • Joni Mitchell
Stevie was in a long red dress cut off the shoulder with thin straps & 3/4 quarter length sleeves. The dress was gored out at the waist so that it swished out around her! She had on her black boots! She had on bracelets & rings!

She sounded great! It was really different to see her sing songs other than rock and roll! Her choices were great! Stevie brought the house down with 'At Last'! And, she definitely got the loudest & the most applause!!!! She thanked the audience for coming out when she was finished!

Stevie is a classy lady all the way!!!!

L.A. Times - Music News

In High Style
The idea behind a benefit concert organized by Don Henley is the real star amid an array of pop divas.
By ROBERT HILBURN, Times Pop Music Critic

Normally, the cries of delight in the pop world after a winning concert debut are in the form of "A Star Is Born."
     After Thursday's classy "Stormy Weather '98" benefit at the Wiltern Theatre, the hopeful exclamation was more along the lines of "A Tradition Is Born."
     The true star of the evening was the wonderfully ambitious program concept itself, and organizer Don Henley hinted at the end of the evening that he would consider trying to come up with a sequel next year.
     Thus, it was fitting that Henley and musical director Larry Klein joined the 10-woman cast, led by Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks, for a curtain call.
     Though neither man performed a note during the 90-minute show, they were the guiding spirits behind the evening, which raised nearly $1 million for Henley's Walden Woods Project, according to an event spokesman.
     There was a touch of imagination at virtually every turn in an evening that drew a big celebrity audience, from Tiger Woods to Sting, whose elegant Rainforest Foundation benefits in New York were credited by Henley for helping inspire "Stormy Weather '98."
     Best of all, Henley and Klein demanded something special of each artist Thursday.
     For most benefits, performers are required only to devote their time. They show up, do a couple of signature tunes, get roundly cheered and head for the reception. Nice work if you can get it.
     On Thursday, the participants also needed a lot of . . . nerve.
     The challenge for the singers, who ranged from country star Trisha Yearwood to the one-of-a-kind Sandra Bernhard, was to forgo their own material in favor of interpreting two pop standards each, most of them drawn from the pre-World War II era.
     The difficulty of that task was reflected in the songs that were selected, a healthy percentage of which were recorded by Billie Holiday, one of music's greatest vocal stylists.
     Holiday, who died in 1959 at the age of 44, was a star in both the jazz and pop worlds, due to her captivating and sophisticated vocals that managed to be smoldering yet restrained--a singer of simply unforgettable feeling.
     To assist them at Thursday's black-tie affair, the singers--who dressed in vintage gowns to match the vintage tunes--had the backing of some five dozen musicians, who were conducted by Vince Mendoza and dubbed, in honor of the season, the El Niño Orchestra.
     Not all the singers delivered with equal command, but all responded gamely to the challenge and tried to either faithfully re-create classic versions of the songs or bend the material to their own styles.
     No Doubt's Gwen Stefani opened by delivering slightly teasing renditions of
     Irving Kahal and Sammy Fain's "I Can Dream, Can't I?," which was a hit for the Andrews Sisters, as well as Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue," a marvelous early-'80s tune that seemed tailored for Frank Sinatra.
     Paula Cole then ventured boldly into prime Holiday territory--as Sheryl Crow, Natalie Cole and Bjork would later--turning in a creditable rendering of Bill Carey and Carl Fischer's lovesick ballad "You've Changed."
     Of the interpretations that followed, Bjork's stark rendition of Rezso Seress and Sam M. Lewis' suicide tale, "Gloomy Sunday," had the most distinctive and compelling edge. Nicks also stepped strongly into torch song territory with Mack Gordon and Harry Warren's "At Last," while Bernhard delivered a surprisingly forceful and full-bodied take on George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's "Summertime."
     The evening's centerpiece, however, was Mitchell, who teamed good-naturedly with Bjork on Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" before singing the evening's theme song, which was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Mitchell's phrasing was so free and soulful, it demonstrated that her singing skills alone would make the master songwriter one of the most honored artists in all of contemporary pop.
     By challenging the artists to stretch, singer-songwriter Henley, who has gone from Eagles fame to equal acclaim as a solo artist, also set a high standard for himself. If he can match the ambition and stature of this year's show, the Walden Wood benefits could, indeed, become the Southern California equivalent of Sting's Rainforest shows in New York or Neil Young's Bridge concerts in Mountain View, Calif.
     The only sour note Thursday was emcee Ed Begley Jr.'s tasteless George Michael jokes. That fare may work on late-night television, but it was way out of place on a night devoted to the legacy of a man, "Walden" author Henry David Thoreau, who stressed the importance of mutual respect and dignity.


Event: Stormy Weather '98 Benefit
When: Thursday, April 16
Where: Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles, CA
Review: Bjork, Joni Mitchell Reign Over Walden Woods Benefit Icelandic singer and legend share stage with eight other female artists at Don Henley's annual Walden Woods concert.

Contributing Editor Frank Tortorici reports:

LOS ANGELES -- In a million years no one could have guessed the contemporary female singer with whom songwriting legend Joni Mitchell would choose to share the stage for her return to live performing after a much-too- long break of 15 years.

But there she was in all her barefoot glory. Eccentric Icelandic pixie Bjork's duet with the original lady singer/songwriter was, without a question, the highlight of Thursday night's gloriously classy Walden Woods benefit -- "Stormy Weather '98."

In the elegantly old-fashioned downtown Wiltern Theater, these music heroes of two generations tackled the Cole Porter standard "What Is This Thing Called Love?" as if they'd been performing together for years, alternating verses and dance moves. Shoobedooing and bebopping as if it never went out of style, the two totally contrasting performers (the bouncy, unpredictable Bjork and the regal Mitchell) had the seats shaking and heads bobbing for a good view. And what a view, with Bjork dressed -- stockings and all -- in white and Mitchell dazzling in green. In introducing Mitchell, Bjork stammered: "These people who organized this are spoiling me. I have the great pleasure of introducing the most 'gorgeousest' woman."

Event organizer Don Henley was probably beaming backstage. The ex-Eagle organized the event for the upkeep of the once-threatened land where 20th century author Henry David Thoreau spent much of his time writing in Concord, Mass. Through his benefit concerts, Henley's been supporting the conservation of Walden Woods since 1990, raising tens of thousands of dollars for the cause. But never has he landed such a coup -- 10 major female contemporary musical artists willing to eschew their usual backing musicians in favor of the 66-piece El Nino Orchestra.

The saying goes "If you build it, they will come." And they came -- 500 strong, including musicians James Taylor, Sting and wife Trudie Styler, ex-Eagles Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmidt and Don Felder, Fleetwood Mac founder/drummer Mick Fleetwood and Bush singer Gavin Rossdale, there to see his sweetheart, No Doubt-singer Gwen Stefani, join the other ladies in performing jazz and pop standards of the '30s, '40s and '50s.

"I thought Bjork was brilliant," Rossdale said. "And, of course, Gwen ... and oh, yes, Stevie [Nicks]," he continued effusively. "I loved Joni, I never saw her in person before."

He was not alone.

With a tiny bow perched atop her head, Bjork had already wowed the crowd by taking a less traditional turn on the tunes she picked than her more famous co-stars for the evening, who included such big names as Nicks, Sheryl Crow and Grammy-winner Shawn Colvin. The ex-Sugarcube lead singer Bjork squealed her way through Billie Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday," while prancing around the stage like a schoolgirl in a class musical. She squeezed and released her left hand frantically throughout the number, which she followed with "The Love That Went Out of Style," accompanied only by a harpist. Only actress/singer Sandra Bernhard, visibly pregnant but typically irreverent, set such a bizarre scene, when she infused the lyrics to "Is That All There Is?" with an exaggerated high pitch vocal and comic anecdotes.

The theatrics of Bernhard and Bjork contrasted with more conventional spots by "Best New Artist" Grammy-winner Paula Cole, country singer Trisha Yearwood and the bluesy rocker Crow, who, though comparatively immobile, showed that she had real chops by ripping into "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" as she shimmied in a revealing, low-cut black gown.

Soul crooner Natalie Cole, after her rendition of "They Can't Take That Away From Me," expressed the wonder that many were feeling about such a collection of talent when she said "This is nice, isn't it? It's really cool to see Sheryl Crow sing 'Good Morning Heartache.' " Cole, who has built a career on such romantic ballads, moved effortlessly through George Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here To Stay."

Most fans might not have recognized the night's first singer, Stefani, who has sold millions of records with ska-rockers No Doubt, as she lit into the Andrew Sisters' "I Can Dream, Can't I?" and the torch song "Almost Blue" dressed in a green satin, sequined gown and a bobbed, little-girl hairdo. The normally aggressive performer, however, maintained an edginess as she crafted the standard around her guttural vocal style and tough-girl swagger.

Fleetwood Mac chanteuse Nicks, the lady in red (not black for once), drew screams of approval from the suit-and-tie audience before she even opened her mouth. And she didn't disappoint, earning the night's only standing ovation. She soothed with "When Sunny Gets Blue" and belted "At Last" -- at points flirting with a blues-rock feel -- as her cascading blond hair fell over her face. "Stevie did great," bandmate Fleetwood boasted after the show.

Nine-months pregnant, Colvin mocked the traditional lounge performance with a faux drink and an ashtray at her side. She became a saloon singer as she leaned into a stool singing "One For The Road." Her smoky vocals and long, white gloves suited the classic perfectly.

And then there was Mitchell.

In closing the night, the icon, her normally straight blond hair set in curls, didn't have to stray far from some of the jazz stylings she used on classic '70s albums such as The Hissing of Summer Lawns. When she covered the old Lena Horne favorite "Stormy Weather," it was easy to forget that Mitchell made her name as a hippie folk-singer.

Henley and musical director Larry Klein (L.A. session player and Mitchell's ex-husband) made sure the night was full of such contradictions. Their effort was not lost on their peers.

"It was great. It was absolutely brilliant," said sensitive singer/songwriter Taylor, as he left the theater with Sting. "It was so good, it's hard to say who was the best, really."

Maybe it was tough to pick the best performance, but seeing and hearing Mitchell and Bjork onstage together was hard to beat.

[ Fri., Apr 17, 12:14 AM PDT ]

RS Issue 788 6/11/98

At the Stormy Weather '98 concert, in LA -- a benefit for Don Henley's Walden Woods Project -- it was all about guts. Divas like Stevie Nicks, No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, and Paula Cole got all dolled up in evening gowns and took a stab at singing old pop standards.

"A lot of those ladies were scared," said Natalie Cole. "This kind of music you really have to know. You can't fake it." They didn't. Highlights were Nicks' torchy version of the Etta James classic "At Last" and Joni Mitchell dueting on Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" with ... Bjork. Quoth Henley: "We did something beautiful tonight."

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