Stevie Nicks, who performed at the Spectrum last night, is a very unusual pop artist: an intensely mannered and eccentric performer whose mannerisms and eccentricity yield good music.
Nicks usually performs as part of the band Fleetwood Mac, but she has just released her second solo album, The Wild Heart (Modern), and her show last night concentrated on material from that new disc.
For this tour as a headliner, she has assembled a first-rate band consisting of players from other groups, including keyboardist Roy Bittan, from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band; Benmont Tench, keyboardist from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, and drummer Liberty DeVitto, the best thing that ever happened to Billy Joel. Together with lead guitarist Waddy Wachtel, this band played a lot of harsh, loud rock ‘n’ roll that was a nice contrast to Nicks’ reedy, delicate voice.
Nicks’ entire style of performance can, in fact, be described as delicate. In her wispy gowns and in the fluttery, flyaway dance steps she executes onstage, Nicks plays up the dreamy aspects of her music. The songs she writes are full of wise, young witches, bold princes and glowering monsters – this is fairy-tale rock ‘n’ roll, delivered with roiling melodrama.
What keeps it all from becoming too coy, however, is Nicks’ penchant for creating firm, commanding melodies that bolster her woozy lyrics. At the Spectrum, she gave bright, unsentimental readings of hits such as “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Leather and Lace” and the current “Stand Back.” In the end, Nicks skittered along the lip of the stage, accepting bouquets and squeezing the hands of gawking admirers, and as always, her apparent sincerity and guilelessness was impressive.
Preceding Nicks this evening was singer-guitarist Joe Walsh, whose billing on this tour is bigger than an opening act but smaller than co-headliner.
Walsh is a man in the midst of change: His old group, the Eagles, has disbanded, and so he’s testing his solo wings by touring to promote his new album “You Bought It, You Name It” (Full Moon/Warner Bros.). This record is a desultory affair that doesn’t begin to hint at the tough-guy good humor and sharp guitar-playing of which Walsh is capable.
Walsh’s performance last night was charming but slight, with one exception – a terrific, extended version of his finest composition, “Life’s Been Good,” probably the most honest, and certainly the funniest, life-of-a-rock -star saga any musician has recorded.
Ken Tucker / Philadelphia Inquirer / June 28, 1983