August 20, 2001
Stevie Nicks' Voice Can Still Cast a Spell
By STEVE APPLEFORD, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
The sound of Stevie Nicks was as much an acquired taste in the '70s as such contemporaries as Robert Plant or Johnny Rotten, and just as distinctive. At Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Saturday, Nicks was herself a renewed figure from that era.
The singer was still at her best when tapping the moodier sounds and themes of her early career, most fully realized on "Gold Dust Woman," with its sharp, tick-tock beat and heavy bass lines.
She has enjoyed the most significant solo career of any member of Fleetwood Mac, but she stuck with that band for another decade not only out of loyalty but also because its rhythm section provided a blues ballast that kept her sometimes witchy musings afloat. On Saturday, there was a bouncier version of "Rhiannon," while the opening of "Edge of Seventeen" was stretched beyond reason by spasms of electric guitar by musical director Waddy Wachtel.
Nicks even performed a pre-Fleetwood Mac song inspired by her experience of first arriving in Los Angeles with Lindsey Buckingham as young singer-songwriters.
Nicks performed on a stage decorated in vine-covered pillars, stepping away for the occasional costume change. If thick-soled boots made her movements less than graceful, Nicks was otherwise a smooth, tightly focused performer.
Her early solo work traded mystery for power and volume, a harder rocking sound that still translated well Saturday on 1983's "Stand Back" and its rich mixture of heavy keyboards, guitars and backup singers.
Nicks lost much of her relevance by the end of the '80s, and her concerts of a decade ago were unfocused and unsatisfying.
But in the '90s she developed friendships with the post-punk likes of Courtney Love and Billy Corgan, suggesting that her influence in pop music continued. And for her new "Trouble in Shangri-La" album, Nicks recruited Sheryl Crow as a producer, along with such guests as Macy Gray and Buckingham.
At Verizon, Nicks performed "Too Far From Texas," a pleasant enough ballad by Crow, but it was strangely quirk-free and out of character for the singer.
Nicks has yet to regain her influence as a recording artist, but on stage she can still cast a spell.