Concert Review: Stevie Nicks with special guests The Pretenders

Photos by Chris Zwaagdyk

Photos by Chris Zwaagdyk

By Jake Ebdale

Artist: Stevie Nicks with special guests The Pretenders

Date / Venue: Tuesday November 21st, 2017 - Spark Arena, Auckland

This could’ve been a disaster.

Having been to a few concerts, I’ve witnessed first-hand how Kiwi audiences can turn. The first mention of New Zealand as part of Australia, or too much talking from the artist, or not enough ‘good’ songs in a row, we start to boil.

We are a proud compilation nation here in New Zealand.  Like, we want the fucking hits, man. But as a supportive crowd, on the whole, Kiwis – or is it just Auckland – can be shit. We used to wait so long for the big acts to make their way to our shores that we developed this strange abandonment complex, like we should be treated as an exception. We are at the bottom of the world, you know, and we’re special. We have beautiful scenery, etc – and Lorde! Though those big bands are arriving a bit more frequently here, this abandonment complex firmly remains. We’re a precious lot.

Stevie Nicks’ demographic is a perfect example, and that’s pretty much what happened last night. Parents paid for babysitters and got all glammed up to hear Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits – the one with the green cover. They didn’t get that. This was a Stevie Nicks show, mainly featuring songs from her solo career.  It’s there on the ticket you bought – at least do the research on what she might play – or say – before you click ‘pay’. She talked a lot – and if you check the Stuff comments section or whatever, this will be the main gripe for many. But she’s earned the right.

Opener Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders really brought the tunes, fast and hard – they knew what was up. A short, sharp hour with ‘Hymn to Her’, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, the closing ‘Brass in Pocket’, they worked wonders to warm up the crowd. Hynde still looks great, with a trademark snarl that hasn’t left since the late ‘70s.

Stevie then arrived without much fanfare, opening with 1981’s ‘Gold and Braid’. She is at legend status right now, and despite the grumbling account managers in my section complaining about how they had to be home at 10pm, or they had a shit night with the kids, how Stevie should ‘shut yer gob and play Fleetwood, girl’, she took her god-damned time, setting songs up or back-selling them. It was generous – like a VH1 Storytellers episode over two hours. Yeah, I could’ve done with something from Tusk too, but this was her show.

She had amazing stories about Jimmy Iovine and Tom Petty (RIP) giving her an already-finished ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around’ as her first single (Hynde sang Petty’s part last night) or writing ‘Stand Back’ to Prince’s (RIP) ‘Little Red Corvette’, then asking for his permission, only to have him play guitar and keyboard on the song in a whirlwind 40-minute session in LA. Sure, she wafted and wavered sometimes. But she was like a cool, crazy aunt who could hold a whole room – thousands, in this case – with her yarns. It was great stuff. Old songs like ‘Belladonna’, ‘Wild Heart’ and the vaulted ‘Starshine’, also written with Petty, really worked. Many in the crowd didn’t know, or couldn’t remember. She didn’t care.

Oh, we got some Fleetwood Mac gold as well, including ‘Dreams’, ‘Gold Dust Woman’ and a wonderful version of ‘Gypsy’. (Also, by no means did she do a medley of ‘Dreams’ and ‘Gypsy’ as the Spinoff review claimed through tears – they just sound similar. Two separate songs, yeah?) We got a deep cut from the Buckingham Nicks album, the classic ‘Crying in the Night’. ‘Edge of Seventeen’ was led by guitarist Waddy Wachtel, a man who has been with Nicks from the very start. With that signature chugging riff (sampled in ‘Bootylicious’ by Destiny’s Child), he also incorporated a ‘Hells Bells’ tribute to Malcolm Young (RIP) - a reminder that Stevie really had some strong connections to so many of these great artists. She also had strong songs, especially on those first two solo albums. Then she brought it all home with ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Landslide’, those first two big Fleetwood-Buckingham-Nicks hits from 1975, bringing the crowd to their feet, the boomers shuffling, the bogans croaking.

It was an effective double bill, this one, and we should be so lucky that both Hynde and Nicks are still willing to play these great songs around the world. Next time, though, if you’re thinking of seeing a band, or a solo artist who is part of a successful band – I’m thinking Roger Waters or Don Henley – do some bloody research and save yourself the gripe on the night.