Stevie Nicks 25 Years Later: Red Rocks, 08-09-11

It was July 17th, 1986 when I attended my first concert.  Stevie Nicks played the Cal Expo Amphitheater in Sacramento, CA.  My dad had won tickets on the radio, as he commonly did, and this time my mom couldn’t make it to the show.  I was 9 years old.  In my head I pictured Stevie Nicks as a guy, especially when my dad told she was a part of Fleetwood Mac, whom I assumed was a construction company.  As it turned out, Stevie Nicks was a platinum blonde beauty in black platform boots, black shawl, black dress and black hat.  Stevie Nicks was 38 years old, hooked on cocaine and on her way to becoming a Klonopin addict — but before all of that she would grace the stage for a famous performance at Red Rocks, tour Australia with Tom Petty and Bob Dylan and spend some time at the Betty Ford Center. She would then go on to establish herself as one of few artists who are considered truly timeless.

I can’t say I remember all that much about the performance in Sacramento, but the effects are evident — I have attended hundreds of concerts and have seen literally thousands of artists since the Rock a Little World Tour.  It has been quite a ride.  But how does that song go?  The one she wrote right here in Colorado?  ‘time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older, too’  A lot has happened in the past 25 years.  I have gotten older. I now have a daughter who is the same age as I was back in ’86.  And Stevie has gotten older too.  But it was the memories of that show at Cal Expo that had me excited when my wife came home with free tickets to see the In Your Dreams Tour at Red Rocks.  My dad won them on the radio in ’86— my wife had them comped by her company in ’11.  So here I am, 25 years after my first concert, reviewing my second Stevie Nicks experience.

It was immediately evident we would be among an older crowd on this particular night as we watched the caravan of Mercedes’, BMWs and Porche Cayennes roll through Morrison as early as 7:00pm.  The hippies selling ‘edibles’ were replaced with picnic baskets filled with wine and cheese.  There was even a premium wine stand setup across from the merch booth — a stand I have never seen before.  That’s not to say there wasn’t a young crowd as well, but an average ticket price of $100 guaranteed an more affluent crowd than Red Rocks is used to.  ‘So you’re 50 huh?  I’m sorry. Wait til you’re 60!’  isn’t something you’re likely to overhear at the 311 concert next week.

The lights went down at 9:00pm sharp and we were forced to suffer through The Black Eyed PeasI Gotta Feelin’ while Stevie Nicks and her 8-piece band took the stage.  By the looks of those on their feet (dancing to this ridiculous song), the show came close to selling out.  Our (my) suffering ended when Nicks stepped to the mic, dressed all in black with a red shawl, and went right into 1983′s Stand Back — an upbeat number that kept everybody on their feet and in dance mode.  This would mark the first song of the first night of her month long tour that will take her across the country.

Admitting that she had rehearsed everything except what to say in between songs, Nicks didn’t have any problems with stage banter — professing her love for this stage and referencing 1986, claiming she might not be alive if it weren’t for that performance.  She also explained right off the bat that she would be performing six new songs interlaced with the classic.s ‘a tapestry of songs‘   The first of these new songs was Annabel Lee, a song that translated very well in a live setting.

At 63 years old, she still sounds amazing — that signature raspiness has aged well over the years. She also seems to have lost a lot of the weight she put on in the 90’s.  She really does look great for her age.  There would be no shadow dancing, no whirling dervish moves, but that’s to be expected.  What I didn’t expect was for her to seem a little nervous — consistently fidgeting with her wardrobe and hair during the slower songs.

The first Fleetwood Mac track, Dreams, came early in the set and was followed by Sorcerer and its sequel, Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream), which is by far the best track on the new (mediocre) album.  A friend recently commented that the new Lykke Li video reminded him of Stevie Nicks and during Moonlight I could see the connection.  In fact, I doubt there are many female songwriters out there today that wouldn’t list Nicks among their influences.  She really is a living legend and the extended Gold Dust Woman helped solidified that status.  The simple set, with gold flakes raining down the red rocks in the background, was the perfect stage for this classic.

The trifecta of new songs that followed were a lull in an otherwise free-flowing set, but the current events themed Solider’s Angel hit a nerve and tightened the heartstrings of the Denver audience who just lost one of their own when a copter was shot down in Afghanistan over the weekend.

A piano solo led into the highlight of the night — it was during Rhiannon that the memories of that performance back in ’86 came flooding back.  I remembered seeing this song live. When she spread her black wings and the wind picked up, I could see that much younger girl in her face — in that wild blonde mane.  I remembered what a childish crush I had on her.  ‘and wouldn’t you love to love her?

After two more selections from In Your Dreams — the Jewel-sounding For What It’s Worthabout a bus ride across the country when I was fragile and needed an angel to step in‘ and Secret Lovea song about someone I don’t remember‘ — she introduced her band with a level of respect and love not often seen.  She has been sharing a stage (and her life) with many of these people for over four decades — quite an achievement.  But what was even more special was her duet with her vocal coach, the one who ‘makes sure we don’t have an off night‘  Leather and Lace is a song not often performed and that’s a shame, but it felt right at home in the ‘city of mountains

An extended drum solo followed by a guitar solo gave the woman of the night a chance to change into a white dress and come back to rock the rocks with Edge of Seventeen — a song that might sound ironic coming from someone in their 60’s, if that someone wasn’t Stevie Nicks.  And as if to prove she wasn’t beyond youthful indiscretions, she walked off the side of the stage and physically connected with those lucky enough to be in the front row.  An incredible end to an amazing set.

As if aware the concert was coming to an end, the wind picked up and made it presence known.  Knocking folding chairs across the aisles and hats off heads, it was too much for some to take.  People started leaving en masse.  I assume these people didn’t realize Landslide hadn’t been played?

It only took a few minutes and Nicks was back onstage declaring herself ‘speechless‘ before going into a solo rendition of Love Is with only a piano and the wind to back her up.  A wind that proved no match for that voice — that timeless voice…

…and then I was left speechless.  The show was over and no Landslide.  What?  Why?  That incredible song was written in the Rocky Mountains right behind us…why exclude it from the setlist?

Oh well, I guess that one flaw just goes to show how perfect the rest of the night really was. Now I just have to figure out how to score free tickets next time around.

Setlist ’11:
Stand Back
Annabel Lee
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)
Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
Ghosts Are Gone
Soldier’s Angel
In Your Dreams
Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
For What It’s Worth
Secret Love
Leather and Lace (duet with her vocal coach)
Edge of Seventeen

Love Is

Couldn’t find any Cal Expo footage, but here is Edge of Seventeen at Red Rocks in ’86

Setlist ’86:    
Outside the Rain
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
Talk to Me
I Need to Know
No Spoken Word
Beauty and the Beast
Leather and Lace
I Can’t Wait
Stand Back
Stop Draggin’
Edge of Seventeen
Rhiannon (both versions) (Fleetwood Mac)
Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You