CONCERT REVIEW: The misty Miss Nicks rocks out

The ex-Fleetwood Mac witch-queen of L.A. pop-rocks a whole lot Sunday at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh. Darden Smith opened.

For an artist usually portrayed as some pre-new-age waif, a singer and songwriter whose records set mystical visions and broken hearts to slick, mellow Southern California pop, Stevie Nicks came across more like a female Tom Petty Sunday at Jones Beach.

On the second date of Nicks’ summer tour, her taut backing band — which featured Russ Kunkel on drums and onetime Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito — exhibited the same kind of rock muscle for which Petty’s Heartbreakers are famous. Meanwhile, the solid, well-paced show — a surprisingly brief hour-and-a-half — was careful to spotlight Nicks’ voice, as seductively throaty as always, yet clear and steady — particularly on the edgier rock songs.

Opening with “Blue Denim,” a song about lost love from her striking new solo album, Street Angel, Nicks then dredged up one of her vintage Fleetwood Mac hits, “Dreams.” Although it lacked the subtlety of the chart-topping 1977 studio original and missed the unbeatable rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the song still had an otherworldly power. “Rhiannon,” another Mac hit of Nicks’, began as an almost unrecognizable, dreamy hymn, but she eventually kicked it closer to the original; even after a million radio plays, it’s still a moving song.

Nicks’ rendition of 1983’s “Stand Back” was a bit overwrought; the bombastic musical backing at times risked drowning out Nicks’ vocals. “Gold Dust Woman” began with an almost techno feel and benefitted from the terse, rhythmic combination of Kunkel and percussionist Lenny Castro. “Talk to Me,” from 1985’s Rock a Little album, and “Edge of Seventeen,” were done in barn-burning rock fashion and led the way for her first encore, a faithful reading of Tom Petty’s old rave-up, “I Need to Know.”

There were a few Mac songs missing: “Landslide,” “Gypsy” and especially “Sara”; such Nicks solo material as “Bella Donna” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” her first hit duet with Petty, would also have fit in well.

With an album as strong as Street Angel and a live show this confident and fiery, Nicks seems beyond the occasionally synth-heavy indulgences of her past. Not only did Stevie Nicks rock a little on this clear summer night by the water, she rocked a lot.

Steve Matteo / Newsday / July 26, 1994

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