Stevie Nicks @ Perth Arena
w/ The Pretenders
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Stevie Nicks marches to the beat of her own drum. Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie released a new album together this year, but Stevie shunned it, and it couldn’t become the new Fleetwood Mac as a result. She took touring her celebrated solo career over rehashing sins of the past in the studio – not that she’s shy about playing a few Mac classics live. But only a few.
An icon to all the witchy women out there, after Fleetwood Mac’s world beating set in Subiaco (almost exactly) two years ago, the chance to see her perform all those 8os classics she did outside the band made for a tantalising prospect. To hear that voice again, live. She’s called the Queen of Rock and Roll for a reason.
Plus she had Chrissie Hynde on the bill. The Pretenders kicked off at 7pm while plenty were still queuing either to get in or get lubricated. But it didn’t stop one of rock’s great frontwomen putting on a masterclass in front of a cracking band and gorgeous stage setting, particularly for a support act; the shimmering drapes of the backdrop alone were proof she was much more than just a warm up.
Message of Love came early, as did a restrained, magical take on Hymn to Her which Hynde dedicated to “Queen” Stevie. From there the hits were surprisingly few and far between – no Don’t Get Me Wrong, no I’ll Stand By You – but when you put on a show this good it doesn’t matter what you play.
In any event, some would argue that the faves from Pretenders post punk and new wave days of the early 80s were better anyway, with Back on the Chain Gang, Stop Your Sobbing and I Go to Sleep all cheered on by the crowd en masse.
One song Hynde will never get away with not playing is Brass in Pocket, and the 1979 anthem still empowers sexuality in women. It was as good as any of the highlights in Nicks’ set to follow, as the audience rose to their feet and remembered every iconic word. A classic.
In truth, despite some incredible moments towards the end Stevie Nicks wasn’t able to bring the same energy and showmanship The Pretenders did. Hitting the stage after a (very) short break – 10 minutes before she was due to – certainly got everyone running back to their seat, but it wasn’t until Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around three tracks in that she truly had the room’s attention.
Nicks went to great lengths explaining the background story behind the Tom Petty duet, her first solo hit and the reason for her lifelong friendship with the late, great Heartbreakers frontman (they last performed the song live together in July of this year). Perhaps the most touching part was the photo of a young Nicks and Petty on the screen behind the band, proving a picture tells a thousand words.
Then the song’s actual performance became a highlight to rival Brass in Pocket, perhaps because Hynde re-emerged to sing Petty’s parts. “First time we did it right in 56 shows!” Nicks exclaimed triumphantly afterwards. “It’s all about you, Perth.”
It worked for Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, but Nicks’ diatribes and origin stories for her songs soon became tiring. While her tale about stealing Prince’s Little Red Corvette and turning it into her own 80s barnstormer Stand Up was enlightening, it could’ve been told in half the time; New Orleans was hampered by a long-winded anecdote about watching TV during Hurricane Katrina; the Bella Donna cape story we could’ve done without; and an ‘inspirational’ talk about chasing your dreams seemed like the pay off would be her biggest hit with the Mac, but alas, thunder only happens when it’s raining, and Dreams it was not.
That said, Gypsy brought plenty of free spirits to their feet early, the segue from Wild Heart into Bella Donna was nice, Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream) was an unexpected highlight as Nicks proved her voice has lost nothing of its power and majesty, and Stand Up was one heck of an 80s synth-pop disco with flashing lights to match.
We needed more of this; less talking, more singing from the heart, more 80s hits. Where was Talk to Me, Rooms on Fire and I Can’t Wait? And let’s not even start on the additional Mac songs she could have thrown in the mix.
But Nicks redeemed herself with the last four songs of the night. Much like its performance with the Mac two years ago, Gold Dust Woman was a drawn out highlight, the ending extended for several minutes. Then Edge of Seventeen closed the main set with a stomp, before the encore of two of popular music’s most famous songs, Rhiannon and Landslide, made all the prolonged banter worth it.
“I know I’m probably going on like an old aunt you have to put up with,” Nicks joked somewhat ironically towards the end of an indulgent, insightful and very occasionally spellbinding two and a half hours. The fact that it was her “first show after a supreme tragedy has happened to me,” gave it a sense of occasion. “I thank you, Tom Petty thanks you, good night,” she added.
In the end though, it made me miss Buckingham and McVie more than Petty or Prince. And realise there’s a definite reason Buckingham is the charasmatic band leader when the Mac are on tour – Stevie in person just isn’t as charasmatic as her songs.
Photos by Stuart McKay Photography