A trickle of rain continued to fall, and I thought of the contrast to the other show I attended on the Enchanted tour, the June 27th Atlanta gig. That night was hot and extremely humid, and tonight's cool raindrops made for a nice contrast. It was the first time of many that night that I'd be able to compare the two shows, which was great. I'd never seen two shows on the same tour before -- when you live out West it's quite a road trip to hit more than one stop on the tour -- but this year I was sent to Atlanta on business on the very weekend Stevie appeared there. How's that for luck?
Boz sounded good, and had the people around me tapping their toes through the rest of his set. He then returned to the stage (one of the few opening acts I've ever seen to perform an encore) to sing his biggest hit, "Lido Shuffle." Predictably, this was the song that received the loudest cheers from the crowd, and lots of people were on their feet and dancing as the rain sprinkled us all. Boz took his bow, and I took off to buy a sweatshirt and a program from the merchandise booth. I don't normally splurge on concert merchandise (especially compared to when I was in high school and it was the coolest thing ever to be wearing a t-shirt from the previous night's big event), but since Stevie is my favorite artist I always treat myself when she comes to town. I was just finding my way back to my seat when the lights went down -- a very fast transition! Chris Nicks did his "reading from the dictionary" thing at about 8:35, and I got to my seat just as he was finishing. Perfect timing!
Stevie hit the stage looking absolutely gorgeous, and sang the first line of "Outside the Rain" with a smile, knowing how appropriate it was to be singing this song as the rainfall got heavier. It was great to be close enough to see that kind of detail! When she sang "Could you love me only?" my friend Carol shouted out "Yes!", which I thought was pretty funny. Stevie gave a typically excellent performance on the song and on the subsequent "Dreams", and Laura and I smiled at each other, sharing our amusement at the fact that even though these are the songs she would have performed anyway, Stevie was starting out with her two of her most appropriate rain songs! Stevie knew it too -- she held up her hands as if to catch the rain as she sang "Thunder only happens when it's raining..." The sprinkle had turned into a fairly steady shower, but I didn't care. How could I think about a little rain when Stevie Nicks was on stage in front of me? The rain did cloud my glasses though, and made me feel like I was watching the show through some kind of cool distorted lens. Hey, there's an idea for Stevie's next video! After she finished the song she addressed the audience saying "Bless you all for standing out in the rain!" She went on to say "I really would like to stop this weather, but I can't -- see, I really don't have those powers!" I laughed at this little jibe at the Alabama ministers of the world who think she's some kind of magical witch rather than "just" a brilliant poet and gifted singer. She then spoke a little about how this was a different kind of tour for her since she's promoting her box set, and how she was going to do "some songs that I've always wanted to sing for you, but never had the chance." Even though I had seen the show before, these words thrilled me -- you have to understand that this is the kind of Stevie Nicks show that I've been waiting for since I first saw her in 1986 -- over a decade ago!
The band kicked into a rocking "Enchanted", and I danced along with joy. "Enchanted" is a perfect example of a song I just never thought I'd hear Stevie perform live. It's an older song, an album track, never a hit -- and for so long Stevie's live show has concentrated completely on hits, with a few newer songs thrown in. I've often wondered why this is -- I think that maybe she's listened too much to the advice of people who say that her career will stall unless she constantly reminds people of her glory days. Even that remark about always wanting to sing these songs but never having a chance hints at a lack of control over her own set list -- she's the artist but she apparently doesn't feel free to sing the more obscure songs unless she's promoting a record that features them! I hope this tour gives her the confidence to mix it up a bit more in concert -- combine the hit parade with some less famous offerings for die-hard fans like me.
After "Enchanted" was over, Stevie went offstage for her first costume change and the band played the opening bars to "Gold Dust Woman." That signature percussion was rewarded with a roar of appreciation from the crowd, a sound which redoubled when Stevie reappeared in her gorgeous golden shawl. Unfortunately, the song was plagued with sound problems, as banks of speakers would cut out and then blare back to life seconds later. I could see Stevie shrug her shoulders the first time she lost half her sound, then give a startled jump as the volume abruptly leaped a line or two later. I noticed her cringing a few more times as the sound inconsistencies continued throughout the song. After the tune was over, she looked at us and said "Without saying too much about it... if this whole thing," she gestured behind her, "blows up or something... everybody just stay calm!" She smiled at this, then looked behind her to see if things were getting fixed. Again, she said, "Just stay cool everybody..." and waited for some news from the techies. The need to fill time was getting pretty obvious, so she started doing a little dance, shaking her skirts and doing tiny kicks with her platform boots (which had to be at least six inches tall, by the way.) She was cracking me up! Finally, someone whispered in her ear. "OK," she said, "I guess we've lost a little more than I thought, so we're going to take a few minutes and get this power working so that we can do this. Sit tight everybody, we'll be right back." (By the way, I may not be quoting her exactly here -- somebody with a tape of the show could probably sit down and find all my mistakes -- but I'm conveying the general spirit as best as I remember it.) Then the stage went dark for about five minutes as her crew frantically scrambled to restore consistent power to the show. It was a bit of a bummer to have the momentum of the concert so rudely interrupted, but it was also neat to see how well Stevie and everyone else handled the crisis -- there wasn't any such problem in Atlanta, and I liked seeing that the group could gracefully take the bad with the good.
They took back the stage with "Gold & Braid," another tune that was awesome to hear in concert. In Atlanta the transition from "Gold Dust Woman" was obviously a lot smoother -- and it was cool then because it reminded me so much of the "In Concert" video -- I often hear that opening guitar line to "Gold & Braid" in my head after GDW since I've listened to that tape so many times -- it was awesome to hear it in concert! In Colorado the song served a different purpose, overcoming the inertia of the unexpected break so that the crowd could get re-energized. Unfortunately, she didn't play "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", but at least I got to hear "Tom's argument on stage" in Atlanta.
Stevie changed clothes again, and started her "Hollywood Trilogy". Laura told me later that she especially enjoyed these songs -- she likes Stevie and knows a fair amount about her (unavoidable if you hang around with me), but isn't a huge fan like me. She said she felt like the less well-known songs were somehow more available to her, maybe because she didn't feel like she was already expected to like them before she had even heard them. We actually had a great talk about songwriting, fame, and the song "Garbo" on our drive home... but I digress. :) The trilogy sounded great, though Stevie's introduction to "After the Glitter Fades" was a little rushed because she felt like she had to make up for lost time. Her intro to "Garbo", on the other hand, I liked even better than when she did it in Atlanta. There she had only hinted at the humiliation she felt after doing the Buckingham-Nicks album cover, saying something like "You can imagine how I felt coming home from that!" At the Denver show she spoke more explicitly, telling how "in my dramatic, 25-year-old way, I felt like one of the famous actresses of the past, who had to do things they didn't really want to do in order to achieve the spotlight." She nailed the song, too, her voice soaring passionately on the final "Marlene". After she hit that note she hung her head, as if the energy going through her had left her drained for a moment, then lifted her eyes and delivered the last line: "or you could...forget." Finally, she told the audience the story of "Rose Garden," and sang the song beautifully. She said that someone in the audience tonight was there when she wrote it, her friend Debbie from when she lived in Colorado. How neat it would be to be that person, to watch someone you knew as a teenager go on to "dance across the stages of the world!" It also occurred to me that all three of these songs about Hollywood and fame were written before Stevie joined Fleetwood Mac -- before she was famous! I find it very compelling that this young girl was able to prophesy what would become the story of her life... and I wonder how much of that prophecy was self-fulfilling.
Next came "Sleeping Angel," which was wonderful for me since it's consistently one of my top 3 favorite Nicks songs of all time. I have to say, though, that I think the Atlanta performance was better on this song. For one thing, Stevie flubbed the first line, singing "Take me, sleeping angel" rather than "Take me if you need me." Also, I'm not positive but I think she left out a verse, the one that begins "I need you, because you let me breathe." I may have been so wrapped up in the moment that I just missed it, though. The song still gave me chills -- it really speaks to me in a way that only the best music can. After the song was over, Stevie said "Our luck is holding," referring to the power -- and I suddenly realized that the rain had stopped! We enjoyed a dry night for the rest of the show, which was great since the high energy was just beginning.
As Stevie slipped offstage for another costume change and the band started to vamp the beginning of "Stand Back" I gave silent thanks for another part of her stage show that I think has improved. I remember vividly on the "Other Side of the Mirror", "TimeSpace" and "Street Angel" tours how Stevie would go to change clothes literally after almost every single song, while the band would vamp on and on, sometimes for upwards of five minutes! Now don't get me wrong -- I love the theatricality of all the different gowns, costumes to help her embody her characters; Stevie wouldn't be Stevie without a few costume changes, but once per song was a bit much. Also, I can't help but think that if it weren't for that dress-changing time, Stevie would have had time to sing more songs! I felt like this show struck a good balance with the costumes, providing the various outfits but also allowing her to sing several songs in a row without going offstage to change clothes. When she returned to the stage in the famous gold-spotted shawl for "Stand Back", it rocked! Everybody around me was dancing up a storm -- this was a fine contrast with the Atlanta show, where my seat was further back and everyone wanted to sit for the whole show. There, I got harassed for standing up and dancing (like I can't do what I want in my $55 spot!) -- in Denver, sitting down would have made me the odd one out! Speaking of dancing, Stevie did this great thigh-high kick towards the very end of the song -- haven't seen Stevie Nicks kick like that for a looong time! She is prepared to kick it! :) I just love the way she does this song live, and it also brought back pleasant memories of her excellent performance on the Fleetwood Mac tour.
Those memories continued as she performed "Rhiannon", in a version basically identical to the one on "The Dance." Oddly enough, when I first heard the piano chords, I thought for a moment that she was getting ready to sing "Smile at You", a pretty rare demo, and my jaw dropped in shock. I said "Whoa!" and Laura looked at me like I had lost my mind: "What???" Then I came to my senses and realized what the song was, giving an embarrased "Nevermind" to my confused wife. I think it must have been just because I was listening to that song on the way down to the show... I think they do have similar intros, though. I thought that Frank Simes' guitar sound was particularly raw tonight, which was cool. Anyway, the crowd really got into Rhiannon, and I noticed a lot of people who were singing along to the pre-song "He still cries out for her" stuff... yet another sign of how many new Fleetwood Mac fans came from The Dance reunion. Good move getting back together, guys. :)
Then came the band introduction, which was cool. I love how Stevie really does seem to have a ton of respect and admiration for the musicians she works with. She introduced her drummer (Land Richards) by saying "When Mick Fleetwood finally understood that I was not going to take him with me on this tour, he told me 'Get a good drummer!'... so I did!" I had to raise my eyebrows a bit at this -- wonder why Stevie wasn't interested in Mick's company for another 40 dates? Perhaps the reunion is still a bit too fragile to endure that kind of one-on-one constant contact? After the introductions were through Stevie and the band did a great "Whole Lotta Trouble," one of the best versions I've ever heard from her. I often have a thing where hearing a song in concert gives me new appreciation for the song itself, and this happened tonight with "Whole Lotta Trouble" -- it's really a terrifically powerful song to sing when you're pissed off.
After this intensity, the band left the stage, and only Stevie, Frank Simes, and Kevin Stoller remained for "Landslide." She said "We always dedicate this song to somebody, and if we don't know somebody in the town we find someone." (I can vouch for this. In Atlanta, she said "OK, we don't know anybody here, so Frank, find somebody." A pause while Frank walks over to the audience, then walks back to Stevie. "Okay, Brittany, this is for you." How would you like to be that person? "Yeah, Stevie Nicks dedicated Landslide to me one time." What a story for the grandkids!) She went on, "But we do know somebody in this town, and I know she's out there, so Debbie, this is for you. I love you and I hope you're doing alright." I assume she was referring to the friend she mentioned earlier during "Rose Garden", and I found it quite touching. Man, I want Stevie Nicks to be my friend! :) She sang "Landslide" very tenderly, and it seemed like the whole amphitheatre was singing along. It was really neat to feel surrounded by the song, thousands of people sharing such an intimate moment. She finished singing, and took her bow, then said "By the way, you know that was written here, don't you? And Rhiannon too! They were both written in Aspen in, like, 1973." Of course this statement got raucous applause. It made me feel so proud to be from Colorado, dorky as that sounds. Hooray for my home state's Stevie connections!
Stevie went off to change clothes while the rain and thunder effects intro to "Twisted" began to play. I had to laugh at the irony -- we had real rain and thunder for half the night, but by the end of the show they still needed the sound effects! Stevie's voice sounded great on this song, which is a tribute to her newfound powers of endurance -- she was at the end of the length of time she performed on her last tour! (If that makes any sense -- in other words, at the time she sang "Twisted" she'd been performing for an hour and a half, which is about how long the total concert was in 1994.) I love "Twisted" more every time I hear it -- I adored the duet version with Lindsey, and then when I heard the demo version on Enchanted I liked that even better. Now that I've heard her do it live, I've decided that I like the live version best of all. I like the lyric changes and additions ("We are the demons" rather than "you are the demon", and "...in this game that you play with God"), and she invests this song with an incredible energy when she sings it live. I think it's one of the best songs she's written this decade.
After this outstanding rendition came, in my opinion, the dullest part of the show -- the endless percussion solo. Now, I know that some people (especially percussionists) really dig this, but to me it's like Mick Fleetwood and his magical drum suit -- cool the first time I heard it, but pretty boring after that. However, I do know that it gives Stevie and the rest of the band (not to mention the audience) a bit of a breather, which is definitely a good thing, and I salute Land Richards and Lenny Castro for being the hard workers they are and shouldering the burden of keeping the concert going while everyone else takes a rest. I've always thought rock drummers were amazing -- they have to put out more energy per song than anyone else, yet they seem to be the ones who are on stage the longest! Finally, the solos wound down and the great riff to "Edge of Seventeen" began. Live performances of this song always give me chills, and tonight was no exception. It's just got so many strengths -- the lyrics are stunning, the tune is catchy, and Stevie always just rips in performances of it. That wail towards the end of the song is like nothing else on Earth! I also really loved it tonight when she and Sharon shared a mike for the "Well I hear you" part -- they both sounded sensational! Another thing I think is great is the way Stevie always travels the front of the stage to shake hands with her legions of fans. I don't know of any other artist who reaches out to her fans in such a concrete, physical way, and I admire her for it so much. It's so caring, and so brave... and finding out later that she'd just had a restraining order put on some nutcase who had tickets to the Colorado show makes her seem all the braver to me. At last, she returned to the mike for the cataclysmic ending of the song. "I know what it sounds like... when doves cry! I know what it sounds like... it sounds like you!" I was jumping around like a crazy man at that point. I can hardly describe what it was like -- almost an out-of-body experience! Stevie Nicks' music is transcendent, in the Emersonian sense -- it takes the top of my head off.
The band left the stage to thunderous applause, and returned a few minutes later for the obligatory encore. "What would a Stevie Nicks show be without a Tom Petty song?" she asked us rhetorically, and kicked into "I Need to Know." It's amazing to me how much more energy Stevie seems to have than in years past; she just tore through this song like a hurricane (or maybe a twister! :). I don't know if I've ever seen her with this much non-drug-induced vitality. At a climactic point of the song, she did another spectacular high kick, this one even higher than the "Stand Back" kick. The woman is a marvel! Finally the killer ending: "And take your violet and blue mornings with you!!" I love Tom Petty, but Stevie does that song justice in a way that Petty never has.
All too soon, it was time for the last song. "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?" was gorgeous, like a lush carpet of silk pillows. I felt inspired, as always, by the words "Did you ever give it back? Well, I have... I have given that to you... So if not for me, then do it for yourself... If not for me, do it for the world..." It was also really special to be there with Laura, since we used that song in our wedding. As the song was ending, Stevie gave a gentle smile and said "...and when they ask her about the men in her life... and they do ask her these days!... She says well, they were poets... yet they were priests of nothing... and they were legends." I felt full to the brim as she repeated, singing this time, "poet... priest of nothing... legend... priest of nothing..." No better words could be chosen to describe Stevie Nicks herself: poet, priestess of nothing, and most important: LEGEND.
P.S. -- At the very end of the show, she said "One more bit of trivia... Like, half my family is from Colorado, and my great-great-grandmother crossed the desert leading into Colorado to come here... and she was the only survivor of a huge Indian massacre! So now you know that." Wow -- I know a lot about Stevie, but I have to admit I'd never heard that one!