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REVIEW – Stevie Nicks honors Christine McVie, Tom Petty

Kicking off a new leg of her North American arena tour in Milwaukee Tuesday, Stevie Nicks let a packed house of fans in on one of her rituals.

When she was a younger woman — and now at 75 — Nicks said sometimes she’ll get a mattress on the floor, sit on it, take a breath and tell herself, “I’m still Stevie.”

That she is, the one and only.

And that mattress ritual to stay connected to herself is working wonders. Across a 17-song, hour-and-50-minute set at Fiserv Forum, Nicks maintained that mystical yet earthy spirit that, combined with her bold songwriting and voice, made her a standout with Fleetwood Mac in the ’70s and a successful solo star in the ’80s.

That was most apparent when Nicks spoke between songs, which she did frequently Tuesday. Before playing Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy,” she reminisced about suddenly having to pay taxes after she began earning a few hundred dollars a week in the band — not knowing and never making enough to pay taxes before. As she told the story, her face lit up like the rush of overnight fame and fortune just happened yesterday.

An even greater level of wide-eyed enthusiasm poured out of her when she beamed about meeting Tom Petty for the first time to record “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” She honored him Tuesday through performances of that song and “Free Fallin’,” during which pictures of Petty appeared on the stage’s big screen, and by using “Runnin’ Down the Dream” as the intro music and “Learning to Fly” for the exit song.

And while Nicks has been a relatively stationary performer for years now, her youthful exuberance took over for “Stand Back.” Snapping fingers early in the performance — one of Nicks’ most animated expressions to that point in the show — Nicks was ultimately consumed by Ricky Peterson’s ’80s synths, Carlos Rios’ choppy funk guitar riffs and Waddy Wachtel’s bluesy guitar moans as she spun around the stage draped in the same gold-spotted shawl she wore when she first played the song in 1983, shimmying and stomping through the song, belting out the climactic “Take me home” with gusto.

And Nicks’ rendition of “Gold Dust Woman” was practically platinum, tugging at her hair and jerking her body to Drew Hester’s towering, tense drums, her voice as passionate and ethereal as it was on Mac’s classic Rumours album in 1977.

But beyond moments like these, Nicks is not frozen in time.

Twice on Tuesday, she mentioned that she finally voted for the first time when she was 71, encouraging the audience to do the same. And even as she beamed about hearing Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” for the first time (she performed the song Tuesday), suggesting she could never write a protest song so powerful, Nicks created her own moving protest moment, transforming solo song “Soldier’s Angel” into a condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a barrage of photos from the country building to blinding flashes of the flag’s colors as Nicks belted the final notes.

And Nicks’ tender vocals for the Fleetwood Mac gem “Landslide,” accompanied solely by Wachtel on acoustic guitar and some sparse keys from Darrell Smith, took on a greater level of profundity now that she “is getting older, too,” and with sweet photos of her former bandmate Christine McVie, who died in November, on the stage’s big screen.

“For all of us who knew her — and you knew her — we just have to give her our thought every day and say, ‘Christine, we hope it’s as beautiful up there as you made it for us down here,'” Nicks said Tuesday, her voice slightly choked with emotion.

That she did. And that Stevie Nicks does.

(Caption: Stevie Nicks performs at the Fiserv Forum Tuesday night. For more photos from the concert, go to jsonline.com/music.)

Piet Levy / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / August 10, 2023

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