No Trouble Here
Improving Stevie Nicks’s appearance on July 20 at Jones Beach, Long Island, NY, would have been nearly impossible. Despite the size of the crowd, Nicks put on a show that was almost intimate, and fans adored every minute of it.
The set design was largely taken from the cover of Nicks’ current CD, Trouble in Shangri-La, with the addition of a few large urns, what appeared to wisteria dripping over columns and the stage, and a pair of golden Egyptian goddesses flanking the stage. Even the weather cooperated with crystal clear skies and slightly cool temperatures making it a perfect night for an outdoor show.
Jeffrey Gaines started the night off with a solo appearance that eliminated the usual long delays between opening acts and headliners. His half dozen songs were well-received by the crowd, including his one political number, "Choices," which he prefaced with a disclaimer noting that it represented his thoughts and not the opinion of Nicks. Gaines also sang his popular cover of Peter Gabriel’s "In Your Eyes," noting that the video could be found in the early hours of VH-1.
After a short break, "Bootylicious" by Destiny’s Child, which samples the famous opening riff from "Edge of Seventeen" to form its backbeat, blasted out of the speakers, signaling to the fans that it was time to party. The closing verses of "Trouble in Shangri-La" and a cloud of smoke covered the band’s entrance. Musical director and lead guitarist Waddy Wachtel, a veteran musician who worked on Nicks’ early albums, immediately got things rolling with a thundering version of "Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around," with Wachtel singing Tom Petty’s verses. Before the lyrics began and several times during the night, Nicks allowed the band to take center stage, proving that this wasn’t just any group of touring musicians. Great performers look even better when backed by true talent, and Nicks clearly enjoys sharing a stage with musicians of skill and passion.
But Nicks was the reason for the concert, and from her opening lines, it was clear that she was in fine voice and high energy. Dressed in a variation of the full-skirted, tight-bodice black dress she’s worn for television appearances recently, Nicks looked considerably younger than her 53 years and proved she can still rock with the best of them. With barely a pause for applause, she launched into a high-energy version of "Enchanted" and followed that with a soulful "Outside the Rain."
Nicks is famous for being extremely frank about the origin of her lyrics and how her personal life has intersected with her career. Friday night was no different. After performing crowd-pleaser and Fleetwood Mac hit "Dreams," Nicks apologized for being distracted during the second verse, but she explained that she, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood [Christine McVie has decided to retire] are creating a new Fleetwood Mac album and that the guys are currently in a rented house in L.A. working on it. Nicks thought about them during the song, and she repeatedly had to remind herself that they weren’t there, and she shouldn’t be talking to herself. It was a charming moment – especially since few people seemed to notice any slip – that emphasized the special bond between Nicks and her fans.
The already charged crowd erupted further when Sheryl Crow joined Nicks for a chilling version of "Gold Dust Woman." The chemistry between the women was clear, and the hugs and quick huddle between them afterward demonstrated true affection, not Hollywood phoniness. Nicks gushed about working with Crow on Shangri-La, for which Crow produced half the songs, and how special it was to be part of the same band for at least a few dates. The two paired up for "Sorcerer," a song Nicks wrote years ago, loaned out for the Streets of Fire soundtrack and at Crow’s urging, added to Shangri-La. Then Crow claimed the solo spotlight for the crowd favorite, "My Favorite Mistake."
Crow is a captivating songwriter herself and though admittedly a fan of Nicks, her writing style is very different, but just as soulfully honest. Fans stayed on their feet through each of her solo numbers, just as they did for Nicks, swaying and singing along. Crow seems a bit more comfortable on stage while holding a guitar than without it, but she has real charisma and charmed the audience.
Nicks returned for another new song, "Every Day" and followed it with perennial favorite "Rhiannon," repeating the arrangement she used on Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance, giving keyboardist Scott Plunkett a chance to shine on its well-known piano opening. "Stand Back" proved that the dance hit is still as fresh in clubs today as it was in the ’80s.
Nicks again turned confessional in her introduction to "Planets of the Universe," another old/new song that was rewritten to soften some of its original anger. Nicks assured fans that she and Buckingham are truly friends again so she added some new verses to this song from the Rumours days so as not to hurt his feelings. Throughout the show, Nicks did her customary twirls, which should be trademarked if they’re not already. Other performers copy but can never truly imitate how she moves, let alone her stage presence.
Crow rocked out once more with her hit "Every Day is a Winding Road" and then stepped in beautifully for Natalie Maines’ vocals on the country-tinged duet "Too Far From Texas." It was clear that these women have loved, lost but will still love again.
"Bombay Sapphires" brought the show back the mystical tone people usually associate with Nicks while "Fall From Grace," again performed with Crow, immediately cranked things back up again to a fiery level. On the surface, rockers Crow and Wachtel could seem like odd fits, since Nicks is most often associated with mellow songs like "Dreams" and "Gypsy," but "Fall From Grace" is a powerful, hard-driving song that blew away the crowd and proved that Nicks can’t be confined to one niche.
The band left except for percussionist Lenny Castro, who did an extended solo that was equal parts Latin rhythm, power rock and pure passion. Wachtel then returned and added a roaring guitar to mix before segwaying into hard-edge version of "Edge of Seventeen" that might have indeed shook the house if the concert had been indoors.
The night nearly over, Nicks greeted fans who had been waiting patiently at the edge of the stage. Though security, which quickly intercepted a young woman who jumped on stage, tried to keep things moving by quickly passing on bouquets of flowers and gifts, it was clear that Nicks would not be rushed too much. When a gift especially delighted her, such as a toy owl whose head turned, she would pause regardless of time constraints, holding the item up to share her pleasure with the crowd. It was in these small interactions that fans could see that the genuine Nicks is very much like what they always imagined, which only made them love her more.
Crow and Nicks shared the first encore and turned Tom Petty’s "I Need to Know" into a duet that maintained the energy generated by "Edge of Seventeen," but the mood shifted drastically with Nick’s melancholy "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?" Sporting a top hat with a huge white plume, she nearly brought the audience to tears with an extended version of the song, which has always been one of Nicks’ most moving. The modified arrangement here meant that the last lines weren’t lost, as has often happened in the recorded versions, but were also repeated to good effect. If Nicks ever does a live album, this version of the song should be a definite inclusion.
Nicks said good night by urging the fans to take care of themselves, stay healthy and be happy so that they could come together again and sing some songs. Most performers say something to that effect, but here, it felt real. All in all, Nicks proved that she’s still on top of her game, if not better than ever, and the collaboration with Crow is so perfect, I feel sorry for fans who won’t be able to see it.
Review © 2001 Beth Hannan Rimmels. Trouble in Shangri-La © 2001 Welsh Witch Music/Reprise Records.