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What did we do to deserve Stevie Nicks?

Rolling Stone
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NORMAN, Okla. – For over 40 years, the Fleetwood Mac front-woman has managed to charm her way into the lives of anyone with two ears and a heart. Past the tales of cocaine binges and rock and roll excess lies an artist responsible for some of the most enduring music of the 20th century. How else do you explain the fact that in the year 2016, Stevie Nicks feels just as relevant today as she did when she released Bella Donna back in 1981? 

Nicks has essentially raised her own coven of gold dust women, with acts such as Charli XCX, Haim, and Taylor Swift all openly citing her as a large influence. When she recently appeared on American Horror Story: Coven, you were just as excited as your parents were at the image of the 68-year old Nicks still kicking it, top hat and all. And would Florence + The Machine, with their mystical imagery and love-lorn lyrics, even exist today if it weren’t for the guiding influence of the original White Witch?

What it all boil’s down to is Nicks’ downright lovability. While her contemporaries focused on experimental sounds and forced musical intellectualism, Nicks has always been an unabashed softie. Her music is from the heart, often shamelessly emotional, and always sincere. You’re not just spinning a record when you put on Stevie Nicks, you’re listening to a woman bare her soul and asking you to do the same in return. That confessional style of music is universal, whether you’re young or old, male or female, a hopeless romantic or an eternal pessimist. 

These attributes and more were all on display Sunday night when Nicks took the stage at the American Airlines Center as a part of her 24 Karat Gold Tour. I may have been just one of 20,000 adoring fans packed into the arena, but the intimacy and spirit Nicks performed with made you feel like it was a one-on-one experience. 

And there was no better way to whet the crowd’s appetite than with special guest The Pretenders. Fronted by punk-rock goddess Chrissie Hynde, the recently reunited group has lost none of the grit or spunk that made them one of the best rock outfits to come out of the ‘80s.  

You could almost say there were just as many fans there for The Pretenders as there were for Nicks. It was certainly hard to keep your eyes off of Hynde, outfitted in a pink cowgirl hat and graphic tee declaring “Everything’s Bigger In Texas.” The set was composed of a lot of tracks off their newest album Alone, which were definitely well received by the enthusiastic crowd. 

But I think it’s fair to say that it was the classic Pretenders tracks that received the loudest responses, ignited sing-alongs, and got the audience dancing in the aisles. “My City Was Gone” was delivered with old-school showmanship, “Stop Your Sobbing” was a punk-rock sight to behold, and “Back On The Chain Gang” sounded just as good now as it did back in 1982. 

Hynde herself seemed in a joyous mood, even playful at times. She’s never been known as particularly light-hearted, especially when her live shows became known for scenes featuring her screaming at concertgoers who had their phones out. But here she regularly stated how good it felt to be onstage and how much she appreciated Nicks, the crowd, and the opportunity to perform in the first place. 

She even lit up during The Pretenders biggest hit “Brass In Pocket,” a song that Hynde has repeatedly stated she doesn’t care for. But you wouldn’t have known that watching her writhe around the stage as she belted out the classic tune: “I’m special, so special. I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me!” 

But as wonderful as The Pretenders were, it wasn’t until Stevie Nicks took the stage that the entire arena burst in pure euphoria. With a stage design that looked like something out of Practical Magic, Nicks emerged wearing what’s now become her iconic look: a flowing black dress and knee-high suede boots. I could barely catch my breath at the sight of The Welsh Witch before she launched into “If Anyone Falls,” the 1983 hit from her sophomore album The Wild Heart. I’d be lying if I said tears didn’t start rolling down my face as Nicks lit up the stage with her godly presence, swaying to the beat and beaming from cheek to cheek. 

And that was only a taste of what was yet to come. This tour is in support of Nicks’ most recent release, last year’s 24 Karat Gold. While plenty of fans were likely looking forward to a night filled with all of the usual hits, Nicks made it clear early on that this tour was going to be a little different. 

“I thought it was about time I do something fun with the stuff I never do,” she exclaimed, mentioning how over the years she’s received endless letters asking her to perform various B-sides, deep cuts, and other overlooked tracks. 

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of chances to sing along to all the classics. The set had barely begun before Stevie brought Chrissie Hynde back out to cover Tom Petty’s part on the duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” It was the ultimate girl power moment, culminating with the two engaging in a passionate stare-down as they belted out the final notes and embracing with a hug. 

While it would be easy for Nicks to twirl around the stage a few times, sing “Landslide,” and collect her check, she’s too passionate about her work to go for cheap entertainment. She didn’t simply perform songs more than she bared her soul before a crowd of thousands, giving music we’ve heard countless times layers of new meaning in the process. 

As Fleetwood Mac’s sole Billboard #1 hit, “Dreams” is a soft-rock radio staple that’s about as perfect as music can get. When the lesser-known “Outside The Rain” transitioned into the heartbeat-like drumming of “Dreams,” the reaction from the crowd was immediate. Nicks’ vocals sounded lush and pristine on this gem of a tune that sums up everything her music represents: broken hearts, introspective lyrics, and unbeatable melodies. 

A cautionary tale if there ever was one, “Gold Dust Woman” is essentially a song about drug use that is akin to experiencing an exorcism. With lyrics that bite (“rulers make bad lovers”) as well as mystify (“take your silver spoon and dig your grave”), “Gold Dust Woman” is interesting on record but electrifying when experienced live. Writhing around the stage while contorting her body in various positions, I can’t think of another time I’ve been so entranced by a performer becoming one with the music. 

But even if you’d never heard the songs Nicks chose for the evening, it didn’t do anything to dispel their magic. She would often start each song with a little story explaining their origin, such as how Hurricane Katrina inspired the heart-wrenching “New Orleans” or “Starshine” is about “leaving your boyfriend behind when you’re a rock and roll star and driving away in a big black limousine!” 

And just in case the candle-lit stage and fringe-covered microphone stand weren’t “Stevie” enough, she pulled out all the stops for her performance of the criminally underrated “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream).” Between her white fur coat and the images of snowy mountaintops and wolves onstage, it had to be the most melodramatic stage performance I’ve ever seen. And yes, I loved every damn second of it. 

As if the night weren’t already packed with emotion, Nicks made sure to hit that dial up to 11 in the latter half of the evening. It’s no secret that Stevie was a close friend of the late Prince, who passed away earlier this year. She recounted the role he played in the creation of her hit “Stand Back” and how “it’s simply not fair that he’s no longer with us to share his beautiful music.” It’s always emotional seeing one artist pay tribute to another, and I about lost it when ghostly images of Prince popped up when Nicks sang the “Just to hear the call of a nightbird singing” lyric during “Edge of Seventeen.” 

Another definite standout of the evening had to be during the encore when Nicks slinked onstage to the iconic opening guitar riff of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.” Delivered with Nicks’ coppery vibrato, this track about a Welsh witch was a perfect cap to an evening filled with all manner of magic and mischief. From the slithery baseline to its striking lyrics (“Dreams unwind, love’s a state of mind”), the song is a perfect showcase for what makes her such an engaging performer. If there was ever a song more perfect for twirling around to while wearing a patterned shawl than “Rhiannon,” I’ve yet to find it.

But like all good things, the 24 Karat Gold Tour had to come to an end at some point. After nearly two hours of singing, dancing, and story-telling, Stevie professed her gratitude one last time.  

“Stay wild, I’ll never forget this night,” she said. “I’m so glad you spent this time with me. Stay away from television, play some music!” The words were simple, but like everything Nicks does, it was delivered with the utmost sincerity.

Over the course of her storied career, Stevie Nicks has experienced the ups and downs of love, lust, heartache, success, and broken dreams. After seeing her convey those experiences onstage Sunday night, I think we should realize how lucky we are that she managed to write her life down and pack it into music so resonant, even the most hardened music snob can’t help but be moved by it. 

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About the Author

Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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