April 10, 2017 Stevie Nicks & The Pretenders Spellbound Nassau Coliseum Uniondale, NY 4-6-17
When thinking of female Rock-n-Roll icons, chances are many names come to mind. Everyone from Janis Joplin to Pat Benatar, the list is long and plentiful. Among all the names, one would be remiss to not mention Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde. Two equally powerful and important figures that helped shape the face of Rock-n-Roll, both have compelling stories to tell. Nicks, a once struggling vocalist who worked hand in hand with Lindsey Buckingham, would join up with Fleetwood Mac in 1975, together going on to reshape the band’s sound and make history. Hynde, an American midwestern kid looking to find her way in the social turmoil of the early ’70s, would later go on to lead her band, The Pretenders, to become Rock hitmakers in the ’80s. Together, these ladies combined their experience, talents, and a plethora of success on the 24 Karat Gold Tour.
A tour which began back in October of 2016, the initial 27-city trek was such a success, an extension was announced in late December for 2o more dates in 2017. Reconnecting after the holiday season, Stevie Nicks and The Pretenders packed up their bags and took to the road together once again, out to share memories, as well as create new ones. A spring run that began February 23rd, it all came to a bittersweet conclusion on Thursday, April 6th, when the tour buses pulled into the parking lot of NYCB LIVE out in Uniondale, New York. The final night, it would also be only the second show ever held at the newly refurbished Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the first one, a day prior, when Long Island native Billy Joel popped the cork. With excitement in the air, fans ushered into the venue, many getting their bearings with the new configuration, but most of all, ready to share in a night of Rock-n-Roll with two legendary acts.
Filling the seats and anxious to get the fun started, just after 7:30 PM, The Pretenders were set to begin. Initially come together back in 1978, through the years the band has seen their share of changes, but through it all, found their way to the top with six consecutive top-selling records between 1980’s self-titled debut and 1994’s Last of the Independents. Often considered an important part of the New Wave movement of the ’80s era, The Pretenders’ sound combined Classic Rock, Punk attitude, and Pop sensibility, helping pave the way for the Alternative Rock movement. Members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2005, sustaining several personal changes over time, at the center has always been Guitarist/Vocalist Chrissie Hynde and English Drummer Martin Chambers. Now with Guitarist James Walbourne, Rockabilly-looking Bassist Nick Wilkinson, and Pedal Steel Player Eric Heywood, The Pretenders were ready to rock.
Coming out the gate, they would start off with the title-track off their 2016 album Alone, followed by another fresh cut, “Gotta Wait.” Catching many by surprise, the new music had people dancing and engaged to hear more as Hynde went back in time to 1981’s “Message of Love” and 1979’s “Private Life.” Sounding tight as a band, Hynde’s voice was lively, sounding as strong as ever. Sadly, modern technology put a damper on the mood as many fans continuously felt the need to watch the performance through their cell phone screen, thus distracting Hynde. Respectfully requesting everyone put down the phones and enjoy the moment, Hynde kept it together, plugging forward with “Hymn of Her,” “Talk of the Town,” and “Back on the Chain Gang.”
Continuing to keep the energy high, despite it being an arena, Hynde admitted the feeling was much more intimate for her as they continued with their cover of The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing.” Keeping with that personal sentiment, they moved forward to ’90s hit “I’ll Stand By You,” inspiring many to sing along. Unfortunately again, the importance to grab some cell phone pictures or video became a priority for many patron as Hynde made one of her final pleads for people to live in the now, but in this world we live in, it fell on deaf ears.
Nonetheless, the show continued on and Hynde and company jammed flawless into hit after hit including “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” the addictive bass driven “My City Was Gone,” danceable “Mystery Achievement,” and “Middle of the Road.” Feeling like a jukebox filled with everyone’s favorite Pretenders tunes, it all came to a head when the band closed out with “Brass in Pocket,” to a standing ovation. Beaming with Rock-n-Roll flair, Hynde looks and sounds fantastic. Couple that with her band’s energy, no inconsiderate spectator eager to take a meaningless photo could ruin this show.
Proving she can make hit records on her own, still, Nicks has so many pieces of music that have yet to be published. Hence,the release of 2014’s 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault – a collection of hidden Nicks’ treasure, that for one reason or another, never made it onto previous albums. Rightfully proud of these songs, Nicks and her band – Waddy Wachtel (guitar, musical director), Ricky Peterson (organ/keyboards), Carlos Rios (guitar), Al Ortiz (bass), Darrel Smith (piano), Drew Hester (drums), as well as Sharon Celani (background vocals) and Marilyn Martin (background vocals) – were ready to bring the music of the past to live one last night together.
Signaling the set was ready to go, Missing Persons’ “Destination Unknown” filled the air before the band walked onto the stage. Taking their places, Nicks followed, draped in her usual exquisite attire as they cast off with “Gold and Braid” and “If Anyone Falls.” Both songs from her first and second LPs, Nicks took a minute to address the crowd, expressing enthusiasm about her return to Nassau Coliseum, a location she has visited many times through the years. From here, Nicks made it clear the night would not be an average concert, stating the song selection will be a mixture of many well known, and others not so much. A retrospective look at her body of work as an artist, Nicks opened herself up in vulnerable fashion, confessing it would be a much more intimate, storytelling experience.
Prepared for the plan Nicks laid out, everyone settled back and enjoyed the the recollection first-hand from the creator who experienced them. That in mind, the music was lavish and colorful as she went into her Tom Petty collaborative hit, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Already a highlight early on, Nicks called out Hynde to join her in singing the track before waving on the rest of The Pretenders to the stage. A final goodbye between tourmates that usually takes place in a more private setting, Hynde and company were set to fly out to the UK, so thousands of fans were given the chance to see the love these musicians have for one another as they bid farewell and proclaimed the 24 Karat Gold run was one of the best tours they have ever been a part of. A heartfelt moment, the show continued as “Belle Fleur” led into Fleetwood Mac classic “Gypsy,” before more Nicks early solo cuts including “Wild Heart” and “Bella Donna” back to back.
From here Nicks provided more personal recounts of her life, further talking about her admiration for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, her collaboration with the late great Prince, providing to herself that her solo career was legitimate, and her modest upbringing. Painting pictures with words, Nicks provided the audience with insight to her experience joining Fleetwood Mac and how her life was turned upside down, literally going from a beat up Toyota that could not go in reverse to a limousine. Matching her stories with careful chosen images to display on the screens behind her, it felt more like a meeting between friends sharing memories, or even that of a personal one on one interview.
Complementary, but not overshadowing the music itself, Nicks’ stories had fans laughing, smiling, and eager to hear more as she moved on at a steady pace. This led into songs like “Enchanted,” 2011’s “New Orleans,” “Starshine,” and the Gothic-vibed “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream).” Then, picking up the tempo more, the synth-drenched “Stand Back” had the audience on their feet and dancing in the aisles. Another standout moment musically, the surprises were yet to come as Nicks gifted a Buckingham Nicks piece, “Crying in the Night,” before her “If You Were My Love.”
Covering a great deal of ground in the lengthy performance thus far, still, fans were eager to hear more, and more they received with the signature Fleetwood Mac hit “Gold Dust Woman” and Nicks’ beloved “Edge of Seventeen.” Then, just like that, it all seemed to be coming to an end, but Nicks did not leave the audience hanging too long, returning for an encore of “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.”
An evening filled with enticing conversation and enchanting music, this was not an average concert by any means. While some may find the extensive storytelling a bit drawn out, most throughly enjoyed the rare privilege to get to know Stevie Nicks on a more personal level. It takes a great deal of courage to open one’s life up in such a fashion as Nicks did on the 24 Karat Gold Tour, and she did so in a forthcoming and sincere way. Think a musical autobiography live and you have the wonder that is the 24 Karat Gold Tour. While the dream is over, knowing Nicks, there will be something else magical lined up sooner or later.
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Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography