While that situation plays out, or doesn’t, we are blessed to have the mystical gypsy of the band, Stevie Nicks, serenading us with those classic songs as well as the best of her solo career.
That on-and-off journey was launched 42 years ago with the instant success of Bella Donna, and now, at 75, Nicks is on a solo tour that brought her to PPG Paints Arena Wednesday for the first time since 2018.
Her devoted followers turned out strong in brimmed hats, shawls and lacy dresses, even some of the guys.
Emerging in style
After the entry song of “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” from another fallen comrade, Tom Petty, Nicks emerged, all in black, bowed, and eased into “Outside the Rain,” a deeper track from her 1981 debut, Bella Donna.
Although it’s not a showy song, vocally, it was all we need to know that her uniquely rough and raspy voice still has the old magic. It was reinforced when the song segued into “Dreams,” one of the beloved entries from the FM catalog.
It’s not often that Pittsburgh is complimented for its lack of rain, but she greeted the crowd saying she did her previous show, with Billy Joel, in a steady Boston rain, with a hat pinned to her head, “and I can’t tell you how excited I was to get to this show.”
Stevie Nicks’ uniquely rough and raspy voice still has the old magic
She prefaced her signature duet with the story of Jimmy Iovine telling her that her forthcoming solo debut album didn’t have a single.
His solution was to introduce her to Petty for what would become “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
“I love you, I love the Heartbreakers, I love this song,” she recalled telling Petty.
Rather than summoning the late Heartbreaker on video, she found a worthy duet partner in longtime guitarist and music director Waddy Wachtel, who sizzled throughout.
Nicks, once a shy frontwoman, continued in storyteller mode, providing the background, about the LA Sunset Riots in 1966, for Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” The song endures for her, she said, because it’s about learning how to listen. She infused it with some added slide guitar, her blunt, husky delivery and a longer, echoey outro.
About 10 years after Stephen Stills wrote that song, she was joining a broke Fleetwood Mac, driving around with Buckingham in a car that didn’t go in reverse.
“I was the only one that had a job,” she said, “because [what] was Lindsey going to do?”
She was cleaning houses. He was perfecting his guitar chops, presumably.
It introduced “Gypsy,” which she referred to as one of FM’s “foundational songs.” It, of course, was another beauty with another stunning vocal over a spinning, carousel effect.
It was full-on hard-rock muscle for a show-stopping “Stand Back,” for which she donned a sparkly coat for the first of her witchy dances, sending the crowd into hysterics.
The strident “Soldier’s Angel,” she explained, was added to the set to support Ukraine and express her disgust with Vladimir Putin, who she is convinced plans to take over all of Eastern Europe. “He is not going to stop.” Rod Stewart had a similar message here a few weeks ago, so this is clearly a hot topic with the boomer rockers.
An exquisite “Gold Dust Woman” was thick with drama and noisy atmosphere, climaxing with harrowing held notes and the shawl dance that’s the Stevie Nicks equivalent of Gene Simmons spitting fire.
Wachtel got to blaze away in an extended opening for the song that many were waiting for, “Edge of Seventeen.” It was an epic set-closer with the chugging riff, Nicks’ braying vocal and a round of solos going from organ to piano to guitar.
“You’ve been an awesome crowd…I love being in this city,” she said, before exiting the stage.
Celebratory, bittersweet encores
There were more hits stacked in the encore: a celebratory cover of “Free Fallin’,” a surprisingly hard-driving “Rhiannon” and finally, the lovely and bittersweet “Landslide” with just Nicks, Wachtel and keyboard.
This song is course, has her repeating “And I’m getting older too.”
Some of the 70-something rockers still packing arenas have lost a step or two, while others barely seem any different than they were 30 years ago. Maybe even better. Nicks clearly falls in the latter category. Rock goddess, indeed.
Stevie Nicks Set List:
- Outside the Rain
- Dreams (Fleetwood Mac song)
- If Anyone Falls
- Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
- Fall From Grace
- For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)
- Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac song)
- Wild Heart
- Bella Donna
- Stand Back
- Soldier’s Angel
- Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac song)
- I Sing for the Things
- Edge of Seventeen
- Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)
- Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac song)
- Landslide (Fleetwood Mac song)
Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / Thursday, September 28, 2023
PREVIEW: Stand Back, Stevie
Remembering Nicks’ first solo show in Pittsburgh 40 years ago
Whoa. That was the jarring assessment, via the PG, of Stevie Nicks in her first solo show in Pittsburgh 40 years ago. It was on June 28, 1983, at the Civic Arena, where the Fleetwood Mac gypsy was upstaged by a formidable opener.
This was her first full solo tour, just a few weeks after releasing her second solo album, The Wild Heart, which was getting airplay with the single “Stand Back.”
Nicks, who returns to PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday, had established herself as a solo artist two years prior, in 1981, with Bella Donna, loaded with four top 40 singles: the Tom Petty duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (#3), the Don Henley duet “Leather and Lace” (#6), riveting rocker “Edge of Seventeen” (#11) and country ballad “After the Glitter Fades” (#32).
“I got Fleetwood Mac in a room,” Nicks told the fans at PPG Paints Arena in 2017, “and said, ‘Fleetwood Mac, I want to do a solo album, but it won’t hurt us at all. It will only keep us in the spotlight while you’re on vacation.'”
She made the right call on that one, as her solo venture only enhanced her icon status and drew more people into what was already a massive franchise.
From the start
Before that, the enchanting singer from Phoenix helped define the sound of the ’70s by breathing fresh life into Fleetwood Mac, a veteran British blues band in need of a revamp.
When she first set foot in Pittsburgh, on June 3, 1975, at the Stanley Theater, as part of Buckingham Nicks, it was to perform with what was advertised as “The Authentic Fleetwood Mac.” That was because, as detailed in a 2018 story, Fleetwood Mac had shown up in Pittsburgh the year prior to play the Syria Mosque with a fake lineup after the real band chose not to travel to the States.
In late 1974, Nicks and her duo partner Lindsey Buckingham had been incorporated into Fleetwood Mac after the guitarist agreed to replace Bob Welch on the condition that Nicks also be added. The 1975 show at the Stanley was one month before the release of the game-changing self-titled Fleetwood Mac album, unleashing the magic of Nicks on the single “Rhiannon.”
They were back to open for Jefferson Starship at the Arena in October 1975 and then for The Eagles at Three Rivers Stadium in July 1976. They finally played their first Arena headlining show here, after the massive success of Rumours, on the Tusk tour in 1979.
Because sharing album space with two other songwriters – Buckingham and Christine McVie – creates a backlog of songs, Nicks began working on a solo album during the Tusk sessions, resulting in Bella Donna. Fleetwood Mac played more than 80 shows in 1980, but did limited touring behind Mirage in 1982 and then went on hiatus for several years to focus on the solo work.
Accustomed to the stellar musicianship of FM, Nicks did not skimp on the band for her solo tours. For the ’83 show, her band included pianist Roy Bittan of the E Street Band (in between The River and Born in the U.S.A. tours), organist Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers, ace session guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto, a bassist who went by Wizard and backup singers Lori Perry and Linda Celani.
Still, Nicks’ performance before a crowd of 11,000 was described by the PG as “lackluster,” in part because it followed an opening set by a gentleman who was part of that 1976 Three Rivers show, Joe Walsh of The Eagles. With his guitar heroics, wacky sense of humor and hits ranging from “Funk #49” to “Rocky Mountain Way” to “Life’s Been Good,” Walsh is an absolute show stealer. The headline was simply “Walsh outshines Nicks.”
The Press review praised the tough-to-tender leather-and-lace quality of Nicks’ performance and her “waif-like, even fairy like” stage presence. Both reviews, however, complained of the pacing. There were long breaks between songs during which Nicks took time to change shawls and engage in banter that was a little bit “out there” by normal standards.
It was just a start, though. Nicks would be back, stronger, as a solo artist nearly 10 more times, beginning with a 1986 arena show with Peter Frampton and then a shift to Star Lake for five shows in the ’90s and ’00s.
Her previous solo show here, on the 24 Karat Gold Tour at the arena in 2017, was a treat for her hardcore fans as the often stage-shy icon opened up in a storyteller format, introducing nearly every song with an interesting anecdote.
That album from 2014, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, is still her most recent solo record, so the focus on Wednesday will be on her classic material, including a few tributes to beloved friends she’s lost. One she still has, thankfully, is Wachtel, who will be in his usual role of guitarist and music director.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, at 75, Stevie sounds “as pristine as ever.”
Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are going for nearly $150 at ticketmaster.com.