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Grand Rapids Press (06/25/2005), Nicks solid in opening night of solo tour < Stevie Nicks < Main Page

Grand Rapids Press (06/25/2005), Nicks solid in opening night of solo tour

Grand Rapids Press, June 25, 2005

Nicks solid in opening night of solo tour
by John Sinkevics

With a powerhouse musical partner like Don Henley in tow, a confident Stevie Nicks knew she didn't have to carry the whole load on her recent co-headlining tour with the Eagles frontman.

But that 10-date outing ended Sunday, sending rock's "Gold Dust Woman" to Grand Rapids on Friday night for the first show on her solo U.S. tour, and raising some question as to whether the 57-year-old singer still had the chops and the material to energize an arena-size crowd on her own.

So she called on the ghosts of Fleetwood Mac -- and a real-life Vanessa Carlton -- to come to the rescue with surprisingly favorable results and fewer-than-anticipated opening-night jitters at Van Andel Arena.

Nicks and her nine-piece band even felt bold enough to trot out some classic Led Zeppelin, firing up a crowd-rousing version of "Rock and Roll" to kick off the encore. And while Nicks didn't croon the tune in the same upper register as Robert Plant (who doesn't sing it in that register anymore either), it proved she still has the desire and the verve to remain one of rock's leading ladies.

With an audience of just fewer than 6,200 -- a smaller crowd than might be expected, perhaps, because of the gaudy $95 ticket price for the best seats -- Nicks also offered plenty of time in the spotlight to an up-and-coming leading lady in the opening act.

Carlton's 33-minute set showed little of the nervousness that a young pianist and singer should reasonably exhibit on opening night, alone at her grand piano. She did break into a grin and heave a sigh of relief after completing the demanding "White Houses."

"It's such an honor to be with such a great rock icon," gushed Carlton, who demonstrated confident piano-playing and a strong, yet somehow pixieish, voice on songs such as "Ordinary Day" and "A Thousand Miles." "I even dress like her, I guess."

Well, maybe not quite like Nicks, who managed several costume changes amid some predictable drum-and-percussion solos that gave her time to sneak back stage.

All of the outfits, of course, had plenty to twirl, as Nicks leaned on some surefire favorites from the Fleetwood Mac catalog to bring baby boomers to their feet: "Dreams," "Rhiannon" and a particularly energized, guitar-driven "Gold Dust Woman," complete with a dreamy, psychedelic ending enhanced by huge video-screen backdrop that projected colorful images and designs.

Although it didn't have quite the lightning-like spark of Fleetwood Mac (nor Mick Fleetwood's brilliantly maniacal drumming), the band led by guitarist and musical director Waddy Wachtel kept everything crisp and on target, with Darrell Smith and Brett Tuggle on keyboards, Jimmy Paxson on drums, Carlos Rio on guitar, Al Ortiz on bass and Taku Hirano on percussion.

Nicks said the band had been in Grand Rapids for several days preparing for the tour's launch. "We're getting to know and love your beautiful city and we love you," she chirped at one point.

Singers Jana Anderson and Sharon Celani chipped in on harmony vocals that proved particularly haunting on "Enchanted," "Rhiannon" and one of the evening's best tunes, "Fall From Grace," from Nicks' 2001 solo album, "Trouble in Shangri-La."

Opening-night glitches were minor: Under-mixed piano parts on "Edge of Seventeen" and "Rock and Roll," and a way-too-ordinary cover of Tom Petty's "I Need to Know," especially considering Petty himself will be in town Tuesday and the Heartbreakers blow the doors off that song.

But the rest of Nicks' first night back on the road as a solo artist was solid and engaging, from the spirited "Stand Back" to the poignant cover of blues guitarist Bonnie Raitt's "Circle Dance," written about Raitt's late father. Raitt even called Nicks on Friday to commend her for playing the song.

"She said 'nobody else has ever done one of my songs ever,' " Nicks told the audience. "This is one of those really precious songs."

Perhaps it speaks to the sisterhood of rock that these important singer-songwriters feel compelled to share their art and their success.

Nicks said in an interview earlier this month that she was proud to have Carlton on board, eager to show her off to audiences that might not be familiar with the emerging artist. And she was also convinced Carlton would experience something truly special on the U.S. tour. "She'll take home some magic," Nicks insisted.

On Friday, so did the 6,000 or so who spent the evening at Van Andel Arena.

Date: 2005-06-25         Number of views: 1641

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