ALBUM REVIEW: Rock a Little

Stevie Nicks Rock a Little album cover“You can talk to me,” Stevie Nicks coos on the chorus of her latest hit single. “You can set your secrets free, baby.” She’s got a sympathetic ear, all right. On the rest of Rock a Little, she comes on like an AM-radio psychologist, dispensing stern but friendly advice, spinning little parables and probing deep feelings with incredibly vague language. It’s all quite earnest and usually fairly tuneful; Stevie’s distinctive growl can attach a hook to some pretty slippery sentiments. But for a pop album, Rock a Little sounds strangely distant, out of touch. Plopped down next to purring synthesizers and the patter of drum machines, Stevie’s sugary moans sound harsh and jarring. The attempts to “contemporize” some of these 4/4 strum-along ditties ruin what would otherwise be an untouched curio, a relic from the forgotten age of the singer/songwriter.

Not that it was all that long ago. But it’s odd how so many of the rock and pop bands of the Seventies have lost their way in this decade. Even such sturdy pines as Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne bend and sway on their recent releases, battered by shifting tastes not only in music but in subject matter and style as well. Only the newly shorn former Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey, recasting themselves as sleek, rough-voiced crooners in the Miami Vice mold, have managed to age gracefully. And compared with Henley’s taut command of modern dance music on Building the Perfect Beast, Stevie seems a bit shaky. The guitar-based music on Rock a Little sounds unfocused, at times almost nostalgic. It’s disquieting hearing a song with the line “Our voices stray from the common ground where they could meet” on the same station with, oh, “Stop using sex as a weapon.”

Stevie Nicks may have prefigured Madonna’s and Prince’s lace fetishes, but the tart frankness of today’s Top Ten makes her seem a bit of a prude. “Talk to Me” plows along with the easy momentum of a Cyndi Lauper hit, the chugging guitars broken by synth wallops for emphasis. But Stevie’s bluesy murmur sounds a little tired, as if all she wants to do is talk, thanks. On the opening cut, “I Can’t Wait,” she waxes urgent but ultimately gets shellacked by layers of buzz-saw guitars and a nervous beat box. As for a statement of purpose, “I Sing for the Things” (“that money can’t buy,” natch) is definitely postfeminist: “I’ll take off my cape for you…Anything you want me to do…I’ll sit at home and wait for you.” Maybe its just my taste, but the combined synths and steel guitars on that track achieve the consistency of curdled milk. On the aforementioned tunes, at least, Stevie is being direct. When she starts setting her secrets free, weaving apocryphal situations and creating moony, enigmatic characters, the going gets a bit thick.

Well, there’s “Sister Honey,” who discovers that “a soul that’s true is your ride to glory.” Or take Lily, the “rock and roll ballerina” in the title tune, who seems to have a paralyzing case of the willies; the subdued gasp of the guitar line on that one sounds as hesitant as Lily does. Then there’s the hopeless dreamer who confuses reality with “The Nightmare” and gets “blinded by the light of the day.” It’s a silly line that Stevie intones with all the strained majesty she used with something like “Thunder only happens when it’s raining.” As unrealistic (and unfair) as it is to hold artists’ pasts against them, it’s telling that Stevie Nicks sounds most comfortable, and most convincing, on songs that recall Fleetwood Mac.

Though her attempts at profundity may fall short, Stevie Nicks can still take an unassuming little rock song and polish it into a gem. Her melismatic slurs turn the treacly melody of “Some Become Strangers” into a lush, extended sigh gilded with a rich and gooey guitar texture. Wistful but not maudlin, it’s the sort of pop confection Fleetwood Mac and Rumours were strewn with. And at the other extreme, the ringing guitar chords and electric organ washes of “Imperial Hotel” force Stevie to drop the therapist’s mask and wail for a while, reaching a delectable screech reminiscent of her saddle-sore crooning with Tom Petty on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Since the newer song was cowritten with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, that’s only appropriate. It’s the album’s high point, despite meandering lyrics depicting the usual moody figures in a shady rendezvous. (This is something we’ll be hearing more and more often, I’m afraid ‘ songs that conjure up images from yet unmade videos.) Given decent material like “Some Become Strangers” or her collaboration with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks wields an authoritative, even stunning instrument ‘ it’d be great for her to wrap her tentacles around one of Holly Knight’s modern-day pop psychodramas like “Obsession.” But left to her won devices, Stevie Nicks veers dangerously close to self-parody. The sensitive rock artiste, making self-indulgent solo statements in a vacuum, supposedly died out with the dinosaurs in the late Seventies. But these days, it often seems like punk never happened anyway. The real shame is that Stevie Nicks could make good records again, if she’d only follow her own advice and rock a little.

Mark Coleman / Rolling Stone / January 30, 1986

LIVE IN CONCERT (2023-2024)

Billy Joel and Stevie NicksStevie Nicks

November 29, 2023
San Diego, CA
Viejas Arena

December 2, 2023
Inglewood, CA
The Kia Forum

December 5, 2023
Palm Desert, CA
Acisure Arena

December  8, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Phoenix, AZ
Chase Field

December 12, 2023
Sacramento, CA
Golden 1 Center

December 15, 2023
San Francisco, CA
Chase Center

February 10, 2024
Atlantic City, NJ

Mark G Etess Arena
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

February 14, 2024
Belmont Park, NY

UBS Arena
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

February 21, 2024
Greenville, SC

Bon Secours Wellness Arena
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

February 24, 2024
Hollywood, FL

Hard Rock Live ^
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

February 28, 2024
New Orleans, LA

Smoothie King Center
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

March 3, 2024
Omaha, NE

CHI Health Center
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

March 6, 2024 – North Little Rock, AR
Simmons Bank Arena
On Sale Friday, September 29. 2023

March 9, 2024 – BILLY JOEL
Arlington, TX
AT&T Stadium

Two Icons One Night presented by Live Nation
^ Non-Live Nation show

Previous 2023 dates

March 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Los Angeles, CA
SoFi Stadium

March 15, 2023
Seattle, WA
Climate Pledge Arena

March 18, 2023
Las Vegas, NV
T-Mobile Arena

May 12, 2023
Raleigh, NC
PNC Arena

May 16, 2023
Knoxville, TN
Thompson-Boling Arena

May 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Nashville, TN
Nissan Stadium

May 22, 2023
Atlanta, GA
State Farm Arena

May 25, 2023
Orlando, FL
Amway Center

June 16, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Philadelphia, PA
Lincoln Financial Field

June 20, 2023
Toronto, ON (Canada)
Scotiabank Arena

June 23, 2023
Chicago, IL
United Center

June 27, 2023
Louisville, KY
KFC Yum! Center

August 5, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Columbus, OH
Ohio Stadium

August 8, 2023
Milwaukee, WI
Fiserv Forum

August 12, 2023
Houston, TX
Toyota Center

August 15, 2023
Austin, TX
Moody Center

August 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Kansas City, MO
Arrowhead Stadium

September 23, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Foxborough, MA
Gillette Stadium

September 27, 2023
Pittsburgh, PA
PPG Paints Arena

October 1, 2023
New York, NY
Madison Square Garden

October 4, 2023
Buffalo, NY
KeyBank Center

October 7, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Baltimore, MD 
M&T Bank Stadium

October 28, 2023
Memphis, TN
FedEx Forum

November 1, 2023
Savannah, GA
Enmarket Arena

November 4, 2023
Allentown, PA
PPL Center

November 7, 2023
Detroit, MI
Little Caesars Arena

November 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Minneapolis, MN
U.S. Bank Stadium

2022 Tour

Stevie Nicks

Jazz Aspen Snowmass
Snowmass, CO
Labor Day 2022

Ravinia Festival
Highland Park, IL
September 8, 2022
September 10, 2022

Pine Knob Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI
September 13, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sea Hear Now Festival
Asbury, NJ
September 17, 2022

Xfinity Center
Mansfield, MA
September 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Maine Savings Amphitheatre
Bangor, ME
September 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sound on Sound Festival
Bridgeport, CT
September 24-25, 2022

Ohana Festival
Dana Point, CA
September 30, 2022

Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, CA
October 3, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ak-Chin Pavilion

Phoenix, AZ
October 6, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The Woodlands, TX
October 9, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Alpharetta, GA
October 12, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ascend Amphitheater
Nashville, TN
October 16, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Credit One Stadium
Charleston, SC
October 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

PNC Music Pavilion
Charlotte, NC
October 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Tampa, FL
October 25, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre
West Palm Beach, FL
October 28, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Orion Amphitheatre
Huntsville, AL
October 31, 2022


Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The Woodlands, TX
November 2, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ak-Chin Pavilion
Phoenix, AZ
November 5, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

For What It’s Worth (2022)

Edge of Midnight (2020)

Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (2017)

New Release

Stevie Nicks, Stand Back 1981-2017, compilation