|June 19, 1998|
| Stevie Nicks rang like a bell Wednesday night at Radio City Music Hall, the last area appearance on her "Enchanted Tour." "Something in my life has always seemed enchanted," the Welsh Witch accedes, and there are several thousand people in the metropolitan area who would agree. A sell-out crowd celebrated the magic of Stevie, garbed in their finest shawls and platform boots, bedecked with lace and flowers, passing the offering plate at the altar of the overpriced souvenir stand. Legends are defined by their congregations, from Beatlemaniacs to Deadheads, but no one commands the kind of outright fervent faith among fandom as Stevie.
Resplendent in black lace and glitter, Stevie rose from the ashes of Boz Scaggs' flaccid opening act to the addictive rhythms of "Outside the Rain," honoring the worshippers who got soaked while standing on line. On a set lit like a room on fire and dominated by a huge "stained glass" fan (as in coquette, not devotee), she segued into her own, better, interpretation of "Dreams." That song, along with an operatic "Rhiannon" and sepulchral "Landslide," proved once and for all that Lindsay has plenty of reasons to be jealous. Unlike his tunes, Stevie's compositions (though inexorably threaded through the same California rock legend) actually benefit from the big Mac's absence.
Stevie broke many of her own rules, beginning with talking during the set, something she has historically only done in interviews. Stevie, who celebrated her fiftieth birthday by opening this tour, explored her own legend with a cool, appraising eye. In a trilogy of rarely heard treasures, Stevie, less plugged, if not actually unplugged, shared her experiences as a young singer in LA. She traveled musically backwards from "Bella Donna"'s "After the Glitter Fades" through "Garbo" (the b-side of the "Stand Back" single), to "Rose Garden," a song she wrote when she actually was on the edge of 17, and whose country flavor belies Stevie's true roots. She also exhumed a kick-ass cover of the tour's title song from the depths of her wild heart. Indeed, most of the evening's set was cultivated from "The Wild Heart," which purists correctly consider her best album.
Though it was nice to hear Stevie share such intimate, lesser-known gems, she did not neglect the AOR Top Forty audience. She trotted out the first of the evening's blockbusters, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," with the dubious assistance of her anonymous guitar man, who is not half the heartbreaker Tom Petty is. Other than this aberration, the band/choir were awesome, especially their percolating support of that classic Stevie sermon "Whole Lotta Trouble." Some of the faithful were overheard questioning Stevie's judgement as to which songs not to include, such as "Talk to Me" and "Sara." These altar boys, new enough to the flock to question our lady's judgement that these two songs can never be replicated in live performance, are sentenced to hide their shame beneath any one of the dozen shawls Stevie wore during the performance.
Some of us were slightly worried by the evening's congenial tone, which we could attribute to this touchy-feely decade were it not for the obvious fact that Stevie, of all people, is not constrained by time, space, or society. Many of us were frankly concerned that Stevie's therapy has been working too well, for the evening seemed lacking in her trademark passionate rage. We speculated that it could be due to her voice, which sounds better trained and more purely alto than ever, but packs less of a roar. We even transgressed into wondering if her upper register went the way of the three-pack-a-day habit she swears she's overcome.
But faithlessness is faithlessness. Stevie, all-knowing, all-singing, heard our unconscious pleas and uncorked a no-holds-barred version of "Stand Back," a song whose energy is written in The First Book of Stevie as coming from "somewhere unknown." The journey into this deep unknown became the highlight of the evening, affirming that song's status as one of the seminal singles of the 1980s and reducing several hundred central nervous systems to jelly. She went deeper into the black by closing with a 19-minute version of "Edge of Seventeen," operating not on open-flamed fury, but slow burn. By the time white-winged doves actually fluttered up the walls of Radio City Music Hall, Stevie was making herstory; laying her hands upon the American Express Platinum Card ticketholder's row, accepting roses, stuffed animals, and, from one acolyte, a diadem of blossoms, with which she unhesitatingly adorned her nimbus. The motion was sweet and somehow sad, but if Stevie has taught us anything, it's that there is great beauty in sadness.
Stevie exhorted us to take a message with us, to take care of ourselves so that we could meet again. Something in all of our hearts may have died last night, as we trailed our fringe and faded flowers out onto Sixth Avenue, but by morning's light the vision crystallized: Stevie Nicks will always be the kind of woman who matters.