Concert Review: Stevie Nicks and Pretenders at Philips Arena
By Collin Kelley
After performing only a handful of her own songs during Fleetwood Mac’s recent 120-date world tour, it was obvious that Stevie Nicks was ready to give fans a full-blown taste of her long repertoire of solo music. Mere months after the Fleetwood Mac tour ended (it made two stops in Atlanta), it was announced that Nicks would embark on a North American tour named after her most recent solo album, 24 Karat Gold. She promised a show like no other, diving deep into her back catalogue of b-sides, rarities and hits. Nicks delivered that to a near-capacity crowd at Philips Arena on Sunday night.
The evening opened with an hour-long set by Pretenders, led by the inimitable Chrissie Hynde. Opening acts are often ignored, but Hynde and company were having none of that. They had the crowd on their feet early performing a string of hits like “Stop Your Sobbing,” “I’ll Stand By You,” “Middle of the Road,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” “Back on the Chain Gang” and “Brass in Pocket,” along with new cuts from their recent album, Alone. Hynde’s guitar chops, swagger and vocals were all on point.
Nicks opened her two hour-plus set with an unexpected choice: “Gold and Braid,” an unused session song from her first solo album, Bella Donna. This set the mood for the rest of the night, as Nicks interwove hits like “Stand Back,” “Dreams,” “If Anyone Falls,” “Gold Dust Woman,” and “Edge of Seventeen” (as hard-rocking as ever, but with added gravitas as a tribute to Prince as it was one of his favorite songs). Hynde returned to cheers to fill in for Tom Petty on the duet, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” And while those war horses energized the audience, it was the rarely-performed, lesser-known songs and newer material that were the highlights of the show.
The title tracks from the Bella Donna and Wild Heart albums were welcome additions to the set list, with Nicks only singing the former for a few weeks during a short tour in 1981 and the latter for the first time live. My favorite of the evening was “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” which began its life as a widely-bootlegged demo called “Lady from the Mountain.” Inspired by the “Twilight” films, Nicks reworked the song into the centerpiece of her In Your Dreams album. Wearing a white-feathered coat and featuring impeccable harmonies from backup singers Sharon Celani and Marilyn Martin, Nicks’ passion for the song came through. Speaking of harmonies, Celani and Martin were also pitch-perfect during the two encores: the Fleetwood Mac chestnut “Rhiannon” and filling in for Don Henley on the countrified “Leather and Lace.”
This was my 10th time seeing Nicks live (starting with the Fleetwood Mac Mirage tour back in the early 80s), and this was unlike any show I’ve seen by her. She was chatty, full of stories and anecdotes (including the fact that her “Dreams” was the Mac’s only number one song) and seemed invigorated to be playing this clutch of tunes before an adoring audience of hardcore fans. Nicks’ trademark rasp seemed especially full-throated, while her iconic shawls, platform boots, ribboned tambourine and stage-twirls even elicited ecstatic cheers from the crowd.
Nicks closed the show by encouraging everyone to vote, remain calm in the face of the calamitous presidential election, and promised to return soon. Fleetwood Mac has hinted at a new album, so expect to hear new music and see Nicks back out on the road again sooner rather than later.