Steve’s had his say, here’s Simon’s take on the Stevie Nicks/The Pretenders show at Spark Arena last night.
Stevie Nicks provided about as good an example as you could find of how subjective art is.
After her show, on my way back to my car, I joined a band of other concert goers in a lift. I asked them what they thought of the stories that Nicks liberally spread throughout her concert of big hits. They all loved them. Yet I found the reminiscences overlong, self indulgent, sometimes boring, and, by constantly interrupting the music, sapping the show of its energy.
I’m not sure how many others shared my view. Perhaps a few, as around me a few left early. But looking around a full arena you could see many pockets of fans up on their feet and cheering every song and every story. Having said that, the applause wasn’t as rapturous as one might expect for one of the true greats of modern music. So maybe for all those who loved it and those who didn’t, there was another large group who were struggling what to make of it all.
Having said all that, there was music here to savour. Nicks’ voice was strong, as distinctive as ever. And with her trademark flowing cape and hair, and the clutch of great songs like Edge of Seventeen, Gold Dust Woman, Rhiannon, Dreams, Landslide and others, she took you back to that time when her music, and Fleetwood Mac’s, was ever-present and essential.
Having criticised the stories, they contained moments of humour and insight. I’m a Tom Petty fan, sad about his premature death and interested to hear of this and Nicks’ collaboration on Stop Dragging My Heart Around. Nicks then played the song with Chrissy Hynde joining her for the vocals (more about Hynde later). We learned she chased a career in music against her parents’ wishes, drove around in a wounded Toyota, and effectively stole a song from Prince. And, that she wrote, seemingly all the time, both songs and poems. All potentially interesting stuff, but surely much better delivered in short anecdotes, rather than the rambling yarns we were offered. One story seemed, cringeingly, to be heading towards making Australia and New Zealand as one and the same, at least to someone who lives in the United States. A video tribute to AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young appeared out of nowhere near the end, unremarked on by Nicks’ herself. Then the tribute continued on to images of Prince. It was a scattergun approach at best.
The chatting, along with the big video screen behind, combined to give the show a bit of a Las Vegas feel to it. The band was professional but hardly lively. Yes Nicks’ 69 year old voice was strong but she often moved carefully and gingerly across stage, perched atop her high heeled boots. The occasional twirl was well received, but you hoped it didn’t lead to a fall. She admitted later she feared tripping on a guitar cord trailing across the stage.
And perhaps the biggest reason why this oddly paced concert felt flat to me was that it followed an incredibly energetic and kick-ass performance from Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. Where the Nicks show, with its complement of yarn-spinning, stretched well over two hours, Hynde presented a tight and punchy one hour set which delivered on quality and attitude, if not quantity. She looked lean and still hungry for rock n roll, and, like Nicks, her voice was as I remembered it from all those years ago. She hit headlines earlier in the tour for launching a profanity-laden rant at an audience member for using their smartphone, and issued one warning here too, politely, in mid lyric.
The 2017 model Pretenders still boast Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers from the original line up, and Chambers played with passion and incredible energy, especially on the all out assault of Thumbelina near the end of the set. If you’re into guitar driven rock, she said, you’d come to the right place. She was right, and sadly for Stevie Nicks, the comparison didn’t work well in her favour. But you’ll find plenty there who’ll disagree with me.