December 18, 2016
Los Angeles, CA
Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette
It would be very easy for me to label the Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders concert I saw as the proverbial “girls’ night out…with the girls…” Too obvious, and I suppose, in this day and age, a bit sexist and objectifying. In all honesty, that wasn’t my initial reaction when the pairing was first announced. My reservations had more to do with the divergent styles of the two — Nicks’ bohemian, chiffon-laced pop rock crossed with Fleetwood-Mac-meets-the-laid-back-California-vibe and the Pretenders’ British-based punky sneer brought home by Chrissie Hynde’s hard-bitten Ohio roots. This was much more than just a matter of "Grrl Power".
So after 28 dates, Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders wrapped up their tour at the Forum in Los Angeles. It was a homecoming of sorts for Nicks (she hails from Phoenix, but lives in LA), and speculation was high for possible guests. Maybe Tom Petty would turn up to do “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Perhaps Don Henley would join Nicks for “Leather And Lace.” And while we’re at it, don’t some of the members of Fleetwood Mac live around? As it was, none of the above made an appearance, but that didn’t make the show any less special. Backed by an eight-piece band, Nicks had a lot of ground to cover, and with plenty of stories to tell, she filled out her nearly two-hour set with relative ease.
The Pretenders were up first, and they wasted little time getting down to business from the get-go by plopping down two new songs from the 2016 album Alone — “Alone” and “Gotta Wait” — for the audience to wrap their brains around. Hynde, her disheveled locks a shimmering blonde and a cobalt blue Telecaster around her neck, still embodies the tough-and-rough scoff, no-nonsense edge that drives the music and gets the fan-boys excited.
One thing she didn’t appreciate were the extended arms with cell phones pointed in her direction. She admonished a few potential Steven Speilbergs in the front row, telling them to cut it out. At one point she said, “Fuck you to all the people with phone cameras.” Then, without a flinch, fell effortlessly into “Back On The Chain Gang.”
Hynde was joined by James Walbourne on guitar, Nick Wilkinson on bass, Eric Heywood on pedal steel, and the band’s original drummer Martin Chambers, still on the mark and in the pocket. He showed he has chops and energy to spare during a rambunctious solo sandwiched in between fist-pumping jabs of “Mystery Achievement” and “Middle Of The Road.” The Pretenders finished up their 80-minute set with a sassy dose of “Brass In Pocket.”
Stevie Nicks was next, and her set took a decidedly different path than that of the Pretenders. For this tour, she has intentionally set out to play some of her more obscure songs, what she called her “gothic trunk” of lost songs. “Belle Fleur,” a modest, mid-tempo rocker featured on her 2014 album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, and “Crying In The Night” from the Buckingham-Nicks 1973 self-titled debut album, were two numbers she sprung onto an unsuspecting crowd.
Of course, she was obligated to play the hits she’s known for, and she didn’t hold back. The third song in, Chrissie Hynde popped back on stage to join Nicks in the Tom Petty role for “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Swift and easy run-throughs of “Enchanted,” “Stand Back” and “Edge Of Seventeen,” along with Fleetwood Mac favorites like “Gypsy,” “Gold Dust Woman,” and the two-song encore of “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” had the crowd swaying and in sync with Nicks’ breezy detours.
Nicks’ backing band, lead by veteran guitarist and musical director Waddy Wachtel, certainly helped keep things on pace and musically precise. In between songs, Nick spent an inordinate amount of time talking — touching on everything from her mother, Hurricane Katrina (she said it inspired the song “New Orleans”), never giving up on your dreams, and Prince.
“Prince was my friend,” she exclaimed before launching into “Stand Back,” a song, according to Nicks, that pays homage to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” Images of Prince would make appearances on the backdrop and side screens throughout the night. Dedicating the encore to the crew and band, Nicks was genuinely enthused by the reception at the Forum.
After the holiday break, the tour picks up again in late February 2017 for another 20 dates through early April. Nicks will also be playing in London on July 9, 2017, with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and The Lumineers. It appears activity of the Fleetwood Mac front will be put on hold, at least for the next year.