MANSFIELD — Rock ‘n’ roll has many special rituals, but none more extraordinary than when Stevie Nicks receives gifts from the audience at the end of her show. The affectionate moment always comes during the song “Edge of Seventeen,” and it always yields a booty that has to be seen to be believed. As Nicks walked the front of the stage last night, she was handed all manner of stuffed animals, hats, flowers, wreathes and even a book entitled Angel Voices.
“I’ll look at it all,” Nicks promised to an intensely loyal and rabid following of 10,000 fans last night at Great Woods. Many of the fans, in another ritual that surrounds her shows, treated the night like a summer Halloween party, dressing in diaphanously witchy, lacy black outfits just like Nicks.
We’re happy to report that Nicks justified the audience kudos last night. It was the opening date of her first tour in three years, but she sounded as strong as she has in a decade. She’s unfortunately famed for blowing her voice out during some tours (dating back to her days in Fleetwood Mac), but her voice was a model of resilience and power last night, as she really belted though such revved-up tunes as “Rhiannon,” “Stand Back” and a scorching version of Tom Petty’s late-’70s garage-rock gem, “I Need to Know.”
Nicks also won points for her gracious honesty. “I’m very nervous. We haven’t played a show in a long time,” she said. “But I’m very glad to be in Boston. Boston has been a special place for me.”
She made it special by really pouring her heart out last night. She played fashion icon with nine costume changes (most were accessorized additions of rock-princess scarves, robes and crystal-bedecked shirts), but what stood out was the emotional commitment to her music, from the opening “Dreams” (a Fleetwood Mac hit) to soft piano ballads and several midtempo songs from her new disc, Street Angel.
As solid as the show was, though, she could have chosen better tunes from the new album. The hazy “Docklands” and vacantly poppy “Blue Denim” were performed, but this listener, at least, would have preferred more deep-meaning new tracks “Greta,” “Jane” (a tribute to nature scientist Jane Goodall) and Nicks’ exalted cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.”
But there was no quibbling with Nicks’ emphatic vocal energy last night, nor with her chomping-at-the-bit band, featuring cut-loose guitarist Rick Vito (a Fleetwood Mac alumnus), dual keyboardists Marty Grebb and Dan Garfield, drummer nonpareil Russ Kunkel (formerly with James Taylor) and a trio of lively backup singers that included Sara Fleetwood, the former wife of Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood.
The show belonged to Nicks, however, whose regal tastes extended to stage design as well. The stage looked like a Victorian mantle, with floral-colored furniture chests out frong and a large, gold-framed picture of a Sulamith Wulfing painting (a bizarre scene of a dragon fighting a mermaid at sea) in the back. Not your average rock set, but Nicks, as she proved dramatically last night, is hardly your average rock singer.
Opening act Darden Smith played subtly tuneful solo acoustic and solo keyboard songs, but they should have put up a curtain so he could have created his own mood and not be confused with the Victorian setting in the back.
Steve Morse / Boston Globe / July 23, 1994