Review: Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and The Pretenders, A Day on the Green, November 12, 2017
It’s often considered a bit of a fashion faux pas to wear a T-shirt of the band you’re seeing to their show, let alone to wear your own band’s T-shirt on stage. But no one would dare mention that to Chrissie Hyde, who oozes cool in a form-fitting Pretenders tee, black jacket and tight blue denim jeans as the band take to stage at Sirromet Winery and launch straight into the title track from their latest album Alone.
As the song closes, Hynde swaps her jacket for a six-string and shouts a Ramones-style “one, two, three, four” before “Gotta Wait.” Hynde keeps her between-song banter brief and to the point, dedicating “Message of Love” to departed former bandmates James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, saying “if it weren’t for us they might still be here, but that’s rock ’n’ roll for ya”.
Hynde’s aversion to being filmed and photographed by punters during shows has been well publicised, and the crowd has been given repeated warnings to refrain from, and it’s a refreshing change to attend a gig where you don’t have to contend with rows of people blocking the view of the band with their smartphones held aloft.
At 66, Hynde commands the stage with a youthful vigour that belies her almost four decades fronting The Pretenders, and the set covers all bases – from a haunting, sparsely arranged rendition of “Hymn to Her” through to the outlaw country of “Thumbelina” and earnest balladry of “I’ll Stand By You,” but set-closer “Brass in Pocket,” which sounds as evergreen as the day it was released in 1980, is the standout.
Nearly four decades in, The Pretenders are still the real deal.
When Stevie Nicks takes to the stage backed by her eight-piece band – comprised two guitarists, a bassist, drummer, keyboardist, pianist and two back-up singers – it quickly becomes clear the woman often referred to as “The Queen of Rock” won’t be exhibiting the same between-song brevity displayed by Hynde. After Nicks performs “Gold and Braid,” from her 1981 debut Bella Donna, she shouts “welcome to Brisbane,” as the South Bank Brisbane sign is projected on to the screen behind her, before giving “a heads-up” that she will be regaling us with stories throughout the set.
Soon after, Nicks tells of how when she was preparing to record her solo debut, she told producer and then partner Jimmy Iovine she “wanted to make a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers record, but for girls”, before performing “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” which features a surprise cameo from Hynde, singing what were originally Petty’s lines in the duet that helped launch her solo career.
Some of Nicks’ anecdotes are genuinely entertaining and insightful, such as the one that begins with Nicks owning a second-hand Toyota Corolla that can’t reverse, and then morphs into a story of how she got a limo everywhere shortly thereafter when Fleetwood Mac’s eponymous album became a commercial hit.
Before launching into “Bella Donna,” Nicks somehow finds time to don a cape, which she proceeds to tell us is the original silk chiffon cape she wore for photos shoots for the 1981 album of the same name, and explains it cost $3000, a fact she was embarrassed to tell her battler mum. It might not have been the most relatable story, but the fawning crowd lap it up and respond with cheers of approval when she makes the case for the cape representing good value for money.
Elsewhere, Nicks tells of how the second film in the Twilight series inspired her to return to write the song Moonlight and how she wrote the song on a grand piano in her hotel suite in Brisbane while touring with Fleetwood Mac in 2009 (who knew Brisbane had a hotel suite equipped with a grand piano?), and how she came to collaborate with Prince on her 1983 hit “Stand Back.”
The career-spanning set features everything from “Crying in the Night,” from Buckingham Nicks’ self-titled 1973 album, through to tracks from her most recent solo release, 2014’s 24 Karat Gold, including “Belle Fleur,” “Starshine” and “If You Were My Love.” But the few Fleetwood Mac numbers Nicks sprinkles through the set, including heartfelt renditions of Rumours hits “Dreams” and “Gold Dust Woman,” earn the most vocal response from the crowd.
Nicks ends her set with “Edge of Seventeen,” before thanking the crowd “for listening to my crazy stories”. A few moments later, Nicks and her band return to the stage for a two-song encore – “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” a song she describes as a “little song” she wrote that became Fleetwood Mac’s “Super Bowl favourite”.
In an industry where ageing male rockers are celebrated and their female counterparts often slighted, it’s inspiring to see two of rock’s greatest frontwomen at the top of their game decades into their careers.
Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders play Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, on Thursday, and A Day on the Green at Rochford Wines, in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, on Sunday
Daniel Johnson / Courier Mail / Sunday, November 12, 2017