2001 Trouble in Shangri-La

From the heart: Stevie Nicks returns to Phoenix for annual benefit concert

2001 Trouble in Shangri-La
(Photo: Frank-Micelotta)

By Leigh Flayton
City AZ
Friday, November 30, 2001

Local hero Stevie Nicks’ national tour culminates in a hometown show that’s dear to her family’s heart — it’s also the hottest ticket of the year.

She’s back. Phoenix’s favorite songbird returns home this December 6 to play her annual benefit concert for the Arizona Heart Institute at America West Arena. And, what can fans expect this year, whether they score the premium $1,000 tickets–which include access to the private post-concert party — or the more affordable, yet still intimate, seats throughout the venue?

We’ll have many of the same guests this year: Sheryl Crow, Don Henley, Lindsey Buckingham,” Nicks said recently via telephone. “They’re all my friends; they’re my circle.”

Also in attendance will be any of us who were smart enough to purchase tickets, for we will not only see a one-of-a-kind show, we’ll be supporting a terrific cause. The benefit concert is the passion of Stevie’s father, Jess Nicks — whose brother and mother died of heart disease — and who has suffered from the disease himself, along with Stevie’s mother, Barbara.

“My dad is almost 77 years old, and when you get to be 77 you get to thinking, ‘I better start doing all this,'” Nicks says. “He is determined to build heart hospitals, and these benefits keep him going because he really goes to work on this. It makes him young again.”

Last year’s show was a magical musical moment. Nicks sang unforgettable versions of her greatest works, including acoustic renderings of “Landslide” and “Gypsy”, with longtime friend, collaborator, and former lover Lindsey Buckingham. Also, many of the Nicks’ friends were onhand singing duets with her in addition to their own songs. Yet the best part was that every cent derived from the performance — titled “Stevie Nicks and Friends” — went to the Arizona Heart Institute Foundation’s efforts to eradicate heart disease, and to provide for advanced research into the treatments.

“It’s not like collecting funds that spray into the wind and you have no idea where they go,” Nicks says. “The second my father gets that money in his hand, he takes it to where it’s gotta go.”

Nicks has been benefiting millions with her music during the last three decades, beginning with her days with Fleetwood Mac. Since 1981, when her solo career took off upon the release of her first album, Bella Donna, she has been one of America’s premier artists — a fact that she takes very seriously.

Her dedication to what she does was almost usurped, like most Americans’, last fall. Nicks was on tour in New York on September 11, the 21st-century’s very own date of infamy. Four days later, her first performance since the attacks was scheduled for Atlantic City.

“It’s been very hard for me to be out on the road [since the attacks],” Nicks admits. “I thought about going home, because I just didn’t know that I could stand up there and smile. There were some days when I was calling home every day, really hysterical.” But Nicks got through that difficult first show. “It was hard to go back onstage. I have been very afraid, but we all have to get back on the plane. If we don’t, this country isn’t going to make it.”

That concern inspired Nicks to write a poem “We Get Back on the Plane” which she composed aboard the nerve-racking flight out of Atlantic City, which was accompanied by an F-16 fighter plane. When we spoke a week later, she admitted she had been “song creeping” around the piano, knowing she would soon set the words she wrote to music.

“My Mom and Dad keep going back to World War II,” Nicks says. “They keep saying, ‘You’re part of the USO right now; you must do this.’ I know that if we don’t get back to work, we’re in huge trouble.”

So Stevie Nicks — the artist — took her own advice and got back to work. “I told the audience in Atlantic City to ‘let us let the music just take us away,'” she says. And, she admits, it did.

Nicks says she knows that music does make a difference, and now, during the height of the greatest American crisis in a generation, she still believes music can help change the world.

“During Desert Storm I received a flag from one of the first tanks that went in,” she recalls. “They were listening to my music and they made a very big deal to me about how important it was, to listen to my records. Entertainment — per se — is really uplifting. And now, of course, all my songs take on a different meaning.”

Nicks has said she’s made sacrifices in her pursuit of the artist’s life, but her returns have meant so much to her listeners as well as for herself. She says she “knows” when she’s written something particularly meaningful; usually because it happens so quickly.

I knew at the end of “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You”, I knew at the end of “Landslide”, and I knew at the end of “Love Is” from the new album,” she admits about realizing the brilliance of her songwriting. “I do have a feeling of it because what happens with songs is, sometimes you get halfway through and stop. Something isn’t right.”

But sometimes, according to Nicks, it’s a flawless process.

“There are ones that just flow out with no problem,” she admits. “I really did write a poem called “We Get Back On the Plane”, and I don’t know when I’m going to write it [as a song]. I might write it; I could write it. Those songs all have a really great story; they all have a real reason to be written. The ones that are really memorable are the ones that give that feeling of I have to do this. And, it’s going to be forever.”

Like the heart hospitals Jess Nicks is determined to build, this year’s teaming of Nicks & Nicks will be yet another gift to the Valley. Jess will take his annual seat in the front row and beam — no doubt — as our desert angel takes the stage.

For tickets call 602.266.2200 ext. 4619 or go to www.azheart.com.

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