I’ve seen the great rock goddess Stevie Nicks five times now. Three times solo since she released Trouble in Shangri-La back in 2001, and once with Fleetwood Mac two years ago. This weekend, she played Nikon Jones Beach Theater in the charming seaside hamlet that is, ahem, Wantagh, New York. It’s appropriate though as Stevie herself explained that she belongs by the sea. A kingdom by the sea. And this year she’s back with an outstanding new album called In Your Dreams.
She wobbled onstage in her signature platform boots, black flowy dress and red lace shawl. This woman’s style has not changed since she emerged on the scene in the early ’70s when I was a wee infant. Her first number, “Stand Back,” was all over the place. I was really worried that she could only hit one monotonic note. Even her trademark twirl felt a little clunky, and may have completed 2 and one half twirls. Girl, don’t fall off those platforms and break something! By her second song, she settled into her lane both vocally, as mother earth and as a storyteller. She has curated this show with songs from her new album that she “sincerely believes in with all her heart,” and older songs she loves and how they’re all connected like a giant tapestry of her life. She performed “Secret Love” off In Your Dreams. It left me wondering if this was about one of the Fleetwood Mac guys or the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart with whom she produced her new album? Hmmm. Then she sang “Dreams,” the only #1 song Fleetwood Mac ever recorded. She reminded the audience that (because of songwriting credit) it is hanging on her wall.
Up next was a beautiful new ballad called “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” followed by “Gold Dust Woman.” Both quintessential Stevie Nicks titles and sounds. Then she told a touching story about her visits to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where she was invited to simply meet many of the soldiers who were being treated there. It clearly had a lasting impact on Stevie. “I walked in a rock star without a care in the world, and I left a soldier’s mother,” she shared. In her subsequent visits, she would bring poems that were inspired by her visits and share them with the wounded and their families with the message, “one day this poem will be a song, and you will hear it on the radio, and it will be about you.” It took her five years to write “Soldier’s Angel.” Honestly it was not one of my favorite tracks on her new record, but her story and delivery of this song in concert has changed my tune.
The next song was a counter-balance to the seriousness of “Soldier’s Angel” and Stevie said it was written by Edgar Allen Poe about his wife, Annabel Lee. It was a poem she was required to read in high school and a song that lived in her head for more than 40 years. “Annabel Lee” is one of my favorite songs off In Your Dreams and it is about a kingdom by the sea, and a girl named Annabel Lee. “Singing this song makes me very happy,” she mused. “For What It’s Worth,” was next followed by gorgeous renditions of “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” the latter showcasing images of her with her father and of her throughout her long career. I still love the story behind “Landslide,” when she and Lindsey Buckingham were living in Aspen, Colo., as he was filling in for one of the Everly Brothers. This song pondered the fate of their relationship. And it was her father’s favorite song.
Winding down the night, she performed “Ghose Are Gone” and a duet with her long-time vocal coach, “Leather and Lace.” She ended the night with her masterpiece, “Edge of Seventeen.” Like bookends to the whole concert, her vocals on this song were off. So interesting that the songs from early in her career are more challenging for her to sing today. Aging is a bitch! But Stevie is not. Her encore was my favorite moment of the night, and may have even conjured up a tear. I didn’t know this, but every Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks concert ends with a ballad. Only two songs from her vast catalog have ever been performed, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You.” On this tour, she added a third song, one from her Trouble in Shangri-La album, “Love Is.” Simply stunning. “Am I happy? Yes I am. Do I know you love me now? Yes I do. Do I know you cannot stay? I know. All about love. All about love. You’re so very powerful.” Pitch perfect and very powerful indeed.
On our drive home, my friend Tony asked me what it is about Stevie Nicks that draws such a big, diverse crowd. Three things came to mind: 1) She’s had four decades to foster a loyal fan base. 2) Her songs are timeless and people relate to them. Her prolific ability to tell a story like “Landslide” in her 20s is still perfectly relevant in her 60s and that’s remarkable. And 3) we love a survivor. Between her legendary romantic entanglements and rampant drug use, she’s come out the other end a healthier, wiser and more artistic writer, storyteller, performer. Love is Stevie Nicks.