November 22, 2016 Stevie Nicks Pure Gold Colonial Life Arena Columbia, SC 11-12-16 w/ The Pretenders
Stevie Nicks has made her mark on history as one of the most influential and iconic female performers of all time. Since the early days of her career, both as a solo artist and in the legendary Rock band Fleetwood Mac, Nicks has made her music her life with the two being inextricably linked since she was young. Her debut solo album, 1981’s Bella Donna, recently celebrated its 35th anniversary this past July, and amidst her busy schedule with Fleetwood Mac in recent years, Nicks released her 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault in 2014. Her eighth overall solo effort, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault has been a commercial success, debuting at #7 on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart. On the road, selling out show after after show all over the world through most of 2014 and 2015, in 2016, Nicks finally embarks on a nationwide solo tour with support from special guests The Pretenders. Kicking off the nearly two month run on October 25th, on Saturday, November 12th, Nicks and The Pretenders brought the 24 Karat Gold Tour to the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.
The Pretenders, led by founding Vocalist/Guitarist Chrissie Hynde, were pioneers of the New Wave Rock movement in the early ’80s. With a list of hit albums between 1979’s self-titled debut and 1994’s Last of the Independents, the English-American Rock band had been fairly inactive since 2012 before embarking on this tour with Nicks. Re-grouped, Hynde, co-founding Drummer Martin Chambers, Guitarist James Walbourne, Bassist Nick Wilkinson, and Pedal-Steel Player Eric Heywood are back on the road supporting The Pretenders’ latest album, 2016’s Alone.
Delivering an energetic and compelling performance which echoed through the air, they demonstrated a command and infectiousness that permeated the building. Offering new songs such as “Alone” and “Gotta Wait,” older classics such as “Private Life” as well as “Back on the Chain Gang” followed. Running through an eclectic set list of songs from throughout their catalogue including 90’s massive hit “I’ll Stand By You,” 1987’s “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” and their cover of The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing,” Hynde had everyone on their feet. With a buzz, bounce, and energy in their sonic performance, it was apparent that it felt good to be back on the stage for The Pretenders as they wrapped it all up with “My City Was Gone” and “Brass in Pocket.”
When it was time for Nicks to take the stage, there was a quiet hum of electricity through the air. Despite the occasional whoop or howl, in excitement, when the arena went dark and the screen behind the stage began to illuminate, it was quiet as a church. The room felt tight and pulsating with anticipation before imagery began to swirl around the screen, the band entered the stage and then the cheering began. Like any star, Nicks entered the stage last to the intense cheers and frenzy of the crowd. The arena was stacked floor to ceiling with four levels of anxious fans clamoring to hear the voice that helped define a generation and gave the world songs that it cherishes to this day.
Opening up her set with “Gold and Braid,” Nicks started the evening on an upbeat, getting people dancing in the seats and in the aisles right away. After “If Anyone Fails,” she told the story of the next song in queue. This would be the ongoing theme of the entire night: Storytime with Stevie. Nicks proceeded to tell the Columbia crowd about her journey to make the music she wanted to make and her exploration of self in the process. Starting with “Stop Draggin My Heart Around,” which she explains was written with Tom Petty, whom she credits for enduring her persistence in musical collaboration and constant attempts at becoming part of The Heartbreakers. She even goes so far as to say that she would not be where she is without Petty’s guidance and assistance. “Thank God for Tom Petty!” she exclaims with a laugh to the packed arena and the masses cheered and clapped at her praises. Then, when it came to performing “Stop Draggin My Heart Around,” she was joined by Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders and the room swelled with cheers once again. After an engaging and captivating performance by the two women, Hynde sang some praises of her own before departing,”She would so be here without Tom Petty!”
Swirling through a time portal of songs that included “Belle Fleur,” “Bella Donna,” “Wild Heart,” and “Dreams” from her days in Fleetwood Mac, with every song, a bit of history is given and fans were given a bit more insight into the soul behind the songs. That is a large part of what made this night and this tour so incredible and special, the ability to discover the real origins and meaning behind these iconic songs. So often fans only get to speculate of relay personal meaning onto their favorite songs, but on this tour, Nicks is leaving no stone unturned. She shared that the devastation of Hurricane Katrina prompted her to write a song, “New Orleans,” that she wanted to be used as a tool to aid healing and renew hope. Learning about her writing process from tracks to cassettes and physically mailing them to artists she collaborated with serves as a reminder of the analog days before everyone became connected through the web and the Internet fed the need for instant gratification. Nick’s process reminds us that great things took time and were worth waiting for.
Another interesting revelation of the evening was about how the album 24 Karat Gold came to be and the inspiration behind its creation. Nicks revealed that she is a Twilight fan and that after the second movie, New Moon, she wrote a song inspired by it, titled “Moonlight.” Although she admits that she hadn’t planned on releasing another album after Trouble in Shangri-la, Nicks explains that she loved “Moonlight” and was so determined to release it that she insisted on making an entirely new album to “wrap around” this one song. So, she pulled from her “Gothic trunk of songs” to create 24 Karat Gold. We also learn about how her relationship with the late artist Prince began when she wrote “Stand Back” while driving and listening to his song “Little Red Corvette” and reached out to him to get his assistance on the song.
Columbia was treated to the oldest song in her repertoire from her Buckingham Nicks days with former beau and Fleetwood Mac cohort Lindsey Buckingham, “Cryin’ in the Night,” which came in at an impressive 43 years old. Looking back at her humble beginnings, she spreads a message of encouragement and inspiration, “You’re never too old to make your dreams happen if you believe it!’ As she and her amazingly talented band rolled through the hits, the entire arena was singing, dancing, and fully enveloped in the moment. What is most impressive is that, like any good vintage, Nicks has only gotten better with time, her signature rasp is still there along with the passion and conviction that is present in her early recordings. She is gracious as well as humble, and seemed to really relate to and enjoy her band. Watching them all onstage together is like getting a glimpse at someone else’s family gathering: there is laughter, singing, dancing, and genuine joy in all of them being together. It was heartwarming and mesmerizing.
As the night wound down, Nicks and company made their way through some of her more iconic songs like “Gold Dust Woman,” from her Fleetwood days, and “Edge of Seventeen.” Not wanting to leave anything left unsaid, they returned for an encore of the infamous “Rhiannon,” which she confesses has been on every set list since 1975, despite her interest in possibly taking it off, the band and fans always insist upon it. Then, they closed out the evening on “Leather and Lace,” originally written for Waylon Jennings, but ended up on her solo debut, Bella Donna, as a duet with then-beau Don Henley of The Eagles.
Stevie Nicks has always been known for her distinctive voice and bewitching presence, but on this night, she became known for something else: being a master storyteller and genuine human being. A window was opened in her mind and heart where the truth of her work lies and she opened that window for all to peer in and experience. Rarely do artist divulge so much about themselves or their craft, whether out of fear, embarrassment, or merely for the sake of privacy, but this tour is a learning experience. It is an opportunity to get to know the woman behind the music and her journey just a little better, to be inspired by her perseverance, and internalize that hope. That is worth far more than the cost of a concert ticket any day.