Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stevie Nicks concert review: Anaheim

Photo by Kelly Swift
A version of my review originally appreared at 

Stevie Nicks came on strong and finished like a gentle breeze.

One of her most intimate Orange County solo shows in recent memory happened Wednesday at City National Grove of Anaheim.

Over the course of a two-hour performance, the veteran Rock and Roll Hall of Famer/Fleetwood Mac member was in fine form.

Entering to Missing Persons’ “Destination Unknown” (perhaps a nod to her hard partying years), the nine-piece band tore through “Stand Back” as Nicks did some of those trademarks twirls. Then she immediately provided a disclaimer: “This is not a ‘Greatest Hits’ tour. I’m promoting a record that I believe in from the bottom of my soul. Let’s get this party started.”

Having missed Nicks with Rod Stewart at the Hollywood Bowl (which landed right in the midst of Coachella), I never thought she’d return to play such a small venue. A large portion of the packed Grove audience had probably seen her solo, with the Mac or elsewhere before, so hearing a set that was half devoted to newer material didn’t seem to be a problem. Those songs all got enthusiastic responses, especially the ones prefaced by a riveting background story.

With a solo career that just reached the 30-year mark, Nicks’ popularity has rarely waned. The most successful of all Mac musicians, each of her albums has been certified gold or platinum. The singer has a legion of unique followers – female and male – who dress like and impersonate her. Nicks even joined Maroon 5 for a version of “Landslide,” when they played the Hollywood Bowl, a testament to her influence on younger bands.

Back in May, “In Your Dreams,” Nicks’ first studio album in a decade, debuted in the top 10 and two singles eventually reached the top 30 at Adult Contemporary radio. The strong, nuanced collection found her collaborating with longtime friend and co-producer Dave Stewart (Mick Jagger, Eurythmics). In true classic rock form, eight of the 13 tracks clock in past five minutes. Former paramours Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and Heartbreaker Mike Campbell guest on selected tracks.

“Secret Love,” penned in 1975 about a forgotten tryst, had an understated, yet seductive charm in concert. Paired with the always-by-Nicks-side backing vocals of Sharon Celani and sister-in-law Lori Nicks, it was truly sublime. The frontwoman impressively held a sustained vocal note at the end.

Elegant, slowly driving rocker “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” prompted by watching the film “New Moon” during the ‘09 Fleetwood Mac world tour, featured horse images on a projection screen. Nicks spread her chiffon layered arms out with dramatic effect and wailed.

A long buildup on “Gold Dust Woman,” heightened anticipation and facilitated the singer’s first costume change. Nicks was totally immersed in the Mac tune. Jimmy Paxson’s prominent beats and Waddy Wachtel’s swirling guitar work added to the mystique. (Most of the top-notch band has been with Nicks for decades and that familiarity with the older material was evident.)

Describing how moved she was following a 2005 trip to visit wounded service members at Walter Read National Military Medical Center in Maryland and inadvertently experiencing a Medivac arrival, Nicks said she’s “never been the same since.”

The stark song “Soldier’s Angel” came from the experience. More filled out musically live, it found Nicks singing dramatically as a picture of her with an American flag and the handwritten lyrics appeared on screen. Wachtel ably handled Buckingham’s guitar drone from “In Your Dreams.”

Among all the new songs, “Annabel Lee” came the most alive onstage. Inspired by an Edgar Allen Poe poem and penned by Nicks as a teenager, it was never demoed until the ‘90s. Orchestral keyboard swells and the breakdown section added to the pop vibe.

Opening act Michael Grimm provided acoustic guitar on the folksy “For What It’s Worth.” Then an extended regal piano solo prefaced an epic, forceful “Rhiannon,” where the initial guitar notes drove fans into a frenzy. Before “Landslide,” featuring just Nicks and Wachtel on acoustic guitar, she urged the crowd to “enjoy your parents while you still got ‘em,” and dedicated it to her late father Jess and others. The song was touching as always.

Nicks brought out her male vocal coach to take Don Henley’s part on “Leather and Lace” – a track she’d rarely done on past tours. The guy had a sweet tenor; Nicks happily danced around the stage as he did the verses admirably. Another lengthy intro on “Edge of Seventeen” resulted in Nicks switching to a white dress and the powerful song proved how Nicks’ burnished purr of a voice is still marvelous after all this time.

Grimm won the fifth season of “ America ’s Got Talent” in 2010 and it’s not hard to see why. His self-titled, Don Was-produced major label debut album came out this year on Epic Records. The singer/guitarist’s low-key, 40-minute solo acoustic set in Anaheim was received well and garnered some hoots and hollers.

Boasting an appealingly gritty voice, his soulful, bluesy style favored such covers as Terry Reid & Graham Nash’s “Without Expression,” Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” (Travis Tritt sings it with Grimm on the album) and The Faces’ “Stay With Me,” for which he was joined by the Stevie Nicks Band (Wachtel did session guitar work with Grimm).

Mac fans should note: Buckingham also happens to be performing at the Grove on Oct. 17. Tickets are $35-$55. 

Stevie Nicks, City National Grove of Anaheim , Oct. 12, 2011
Main set: Stand Back/Secret Love/Dreams/Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)/Gold Dust Woman/Soldier’s Angel/Annabel Lee/For What It’s Worth/Rhiannon/Landslide/Ghosts Are Gone/Leather & Lace/Edge of Seventeen
Encore: Love Is


Used Cars Anaheim said...

I missed the concert but Stevie Nicks is one of my favorite artists of all times. I like her songs from Fleetwood Mac the most such as "Swee Little Lies" etc

newwavegeo said...

It's interesting you mentioned "Little Lies," a Christine McVie song from 'Tango in the Night.' Nicks has a minor role on backing vocals. Great song, I agree.