It was an evening for witchy women, storytelling, and fringe galore at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand on Friday. And magical music, of course – the twirl-worthy sort that Stevie Nicks has been making since the heyday of Fleetwood Mac in the ‘70s, and on her own since the ‘80s.
Although the setting was unique for Nicks (“I can smell all the good food and cake and stuff,” she remarked), the gathering storm clouds and swirly wind created a suitable mood. The singer wore all black – coat, fingerless gloves, signature platform suede boots – to complement her rock-star sunglasses and feathery hair. Later she added gold-tinged shawls, as well as the original Bella Donna velvety blue cloak.
Fleetwood Mac entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 but the 69-year-old Nicks has never earned the same recognition for her solo career, despite mammoth hits like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stand Back.” While speaking between songs Friday night, Nicks disclosed the pressure she felt creating her second album, Wild Heart, the 1983 follow-up to her 1981 blockbuster Bella Donna. She wanted no one to think her success was a “fluke.” If anyone knows the challenges women face in the music business, it’s Nicks. Survival is part of her allure.
At the fair, with the super-sized Ferris wheel glittering in the background, Nicks proved her staying power, keeping in fine voice. She opened with the defiant country-gospel tinged “Gold and Braid” from Bella Donna and then served as our spirit guide, wending her way through old and newer tunes. Music director and renowned guitarist Waddy Wachtel kept the band sharp and assumed Tom Petty’s role in a rousing singalong of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
During “New Orleans” (from 2011’s In Your Dreams) Nicks recalled her sorrow over the city’s post-Katrina devastation and referenced Hurricane Harvey, now wrecking south Texas. “Crying in the Night” from the Buckingham-Nicks era served up ‘70’s-style easy-breeziness.
A memorable highlight was Nicks’ rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” from Rumours, with its famously haunting refrain: “Did she make you cry/Make you break down/Shatter your illusions of love.” Nicks, who’d been showing off her ballet-inspired moves all evening, went into a full on quake, as if the lightning-charged atmosphere was using her body as a conduit.
Being in Minnesota, Nicks said her “first and only husband” (local Kim Anderson) was in the audience (they were married from 1983-84) and she paid homage to Prince, whose presence she said is often felt on her stage. Nicks recounted how his “Little Red Corvette” melody inspired her to write “Stand Back.” Fearful her song was too similar, she invited Prince into her studio for approval. After giving the nod, he drove off in a purple Camaro. She also dedicated “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)” from the movie Twilight to Prince’s memory (“Like a candle burns bright/And it wants to burn faster”) and noted their shared call-and-response through “Edge of Seventeen” (“Just like the white winged dove …”) and “When Doves Cry.”
A thunderstorm cut the encore short after a driving version of “Edge of Seventeen.” Some felt robbed of possibly hearing “Rhiannon” and “Landslide” but still Nicks lived up to her legend.
Notes on the opener: Vanessa Carlton set the tone with seven songs showcasing her crystal-clear vocals, a cool contrast to Nicks’ smoky timbre. Her uplifting 2002 pop-and-classical-piano-driven hit “A Thousand Miles” was the audience favorite but the New Yorker-turned-Nashville denizen also offered up softer sounds like the Nicks-influenced Carousel (2011) and the wistful “Take it Easy” from 2015’s Liberman, an album dedicated to her late grandfather.
The crowd: Leather, lace, flowing frocks (and locks), fringe, and high heels. Twirling in the aisles.
Overheard in the crowd: "Oh, we'd like hanging out with her!" from the four women behind me, after Nicks greeted the crowd.
Critic's bias: Soundtrack of my junior high school years.
Random notebook dumps: Vanessa Carlton sat down at her piano with a glass of wine and announced "It's mom's night out, okay?" Also, Nicks noted there's an ode to Lindsay Buckingham's old Buick Skylark in "Rhiannon" ("She rules her life like a fine skylark ...") and said "I don't even think Lindsay knows that."
Gold and Braid
If Anyone Falls
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Waddy Wachtel)
Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)
Crying in the Night
If You Were My Love
Gold Dust Woman
Edge of Seventeen