Still dressing for Stevie

FOCAL POINT Stevie Nicks at signing event. (Photo by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)
FOCAL POINT Stevie Nicks at signing event. (Photo by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)

By Ruth La Ferla
New York Times
April 8, 2009

STEVIE NICKS is the consummate tease. Fanning out her arms, which are veiled, as always, in chiffon, she seems about to fold her audience into an embrace. Yet when she turns away, raising those arms in a priestesslike gesture, that fabric acts as a curtain, shielding her from prying eyes.

Her audience last month at Madison Square Garden, where Ms. Nicks sang with Fleetwood Mac, was clearly seduced by her come-hither/keep-back performance. Aging hippies and youthful rockers swayed and twirled in the aisles, their faces upturned to watch her shake her tambourine.

Her stylistic persona is as rock steady as her sound. Part healer, part sorceress, at 60 she is still working the gossamer tunics and shawls that have influenced two generations of Stevie acolytes, and given her performances the feel of a Wiccan ritual. Now, as if timed to the vernal equinox, Ms. Nicks has resurfaced with two new DVDs and a three-month concert tour. As might be expected, troupes of leather-and-lace-clad Stevie clones are popping up like crocuses.

They love her music, of course. “But time makes you bolder/Children get older/I’m getting older, too,” lines from the ballad “Landslide,” which she wrote at 26, can bring tears to their eyes. But they are besotted with Ms. Nicks herself. Never mind that the rock star is no sylph. She is the anti-Madonna — fragile and ethereal — and as constant as the tides.

“She does her own, thing, always has done,” said Lily Donaldson, the celebrity model who attended the concert last month. “I love her music and her look, that whole flowing thing.”

Anna Sui, who dedicated an entire collection to Ms. Nicks in the late ’90s and turns out Stevie-inspired handkerchief hems almost every season, admires her consistency. “She’s the iconic California woman,” Ms. Sui observed. “Everyone has their version of her.”

These days Ms. Nicks is the inspiration for Web sites like gypsymoon.com, which offers Nicks-style top hats and shawls; and enchantedmirror.com, which sells tambourines, fringed shawls and a musky fragrance in homage to the singer. In February, Jill Stuart paraded Nicksian feathers, leather and lace on her fashion runway.

Variations on her costumes were precursors, Ms. Nicks will tell you, of “that grungy girl who wears the little ballerina dresses and big buccaneer boots.”

She will also tell you that the West Coast Ophelia look, all ruffles and belled sleeves, is the product of canny self-packaging.

“I needed a uniform,” she recalled, one that would counteract the stage fright she encountered in the mid-’70s, when she first began touring with Fleetwood Mac. At the time, her brief to Margi Kent, who still designs much of her wardrobe, was to create “something urchinlike out of Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities, ” a chiffonlike, raggedy skirt that would still look beautiful with black velvet platform boots.

“We came up with the outfit: a Jantzen leotard, a little chiffon wrap blouse, a couple of little short jackets, two skirts and boots,” Ms. Nicks said as she reminisced in her suite at the Waldorf Towers last week. “That gave us our edge.”

And an effective disguise. “I’ll be very, very sexy under 18 pounds of chiffon and lace and velvet,” Ms. Nicks promised herself as a teenager. “And nobody will know who I really am.”

Today she remains a woman under wraps, her legend as carefully tended as her wardrobe, which she stores in her home in Los Angeles. That legend encompasses the shaky vicissitudes of her romantic life — fans still speculate about the nature of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist and her long-ago lover — and her risen-from-the-ashes saga of drug abuse and rehabilitation.

She is slow to detail the ravages of cocaine, which caused her voice to falter and her weight to fluctuate wildly over the years. But she does vow heatedly, “I will never do another line.”

Wed briefly in 1983 to Kim Anderson, the widower of a close friend, she has never remarried. “I didn’t want to be held down by a relationship,” she said, elaborating only that she was simply not equipped for the responsibilities of family life.

Her assiduously cultivated mysteriousness helps to keep her alive in the minds of fans. Yet at times she can appear guileless. Leaning in confidentially, she bemoaned the state of her arms. “They’ll never be what they were.” To tone them, she flexed a few times too many on her Power Plate machine, tearing a ligament. “When I’m pulling up my tights, I’m like dying,” she said.

She was limber enough, though, to lay out on the carpet three variations of her favorite stage turnout: a cutaway jacket, a ruched and ruffled dress and chunky boots. Missing was the airy shawl that is part of her concert uniform.

“A shawl is a great prop,” said the star, who is 5-foot-1. “It makes for big gestures.” Spreading her arms and whirling like a gyroscope, she added, “If you want to be seen at the back of that arena, you have to have very big movements.”

Her reach extends to Hollywood as well. Lindsay Lohan hopes to buy the rights to her life story and to play her on film. Unmoved, Ms. Nicks responded: “Over my dead body. She needs to stop doing drugs and get a grip. Then maybe we’ll talk.”

That candor endears her to fans, who evidently equate it with authenticity. “She’s not a trend or a fad,” said Nicholas Kalinoski, 30, the creative director of a fashion house in New York. “She’s an original, and people follow an original.”

Standing in line behind him at Barnes & Noble in Union Square last week, Johanna Ramos, 21, waited stoically for Ms. Nicks to sign her DVDs, Live in Chicago and The Soundstage Sessions. “She looks like a sorceress,” Ms. Ramos said, “like someone powerful who owns the stage.”

Indeed, with her back to the audience, Ms. Nicks projects the fervor of a tent revivalist. “There are times when she stands completely still, and then she’ll just put one hand up,” said Chi Chi Valenti, the founder of Night of a Thousand Stevies, an annual Nicks-inspired costume bash. “Especially with the backlighting, she almost looks like a religious statue.”

Some 1,000 people lined up to greet Ms. Nicks in Union Square, bringing offerings of handmade greeting cards and amulets. There were boys in Nicksian top hats and urbane looking women in black chiffon and crescent moon pendants.

“You are my mentor and my inspiration, and I’ve loved you all my life,” one long-haired admirer in her 40s said. Ms. Nicks took her hand. Another, in her 20s, glided forward in a wheelchair, and Ms. Nicks squeezed hers as well, just as she did when a girl, 17, told her that she had given her the strength to stop using cocaine.

Looking on, Liz Rosenberg, Ms. Nicks’s longtime publicist, was having none of it. “Stevie is the new kabbalah,” she joked. Then she urged her to step up the pace.

Tamed by time: Ex-Lovers, hit songs

 

From left, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The band mostly performed its 1970s hits. (Photo by Robert Caplin)
From left, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The band mostly performed its 1970s hits. (Photo by Robert Caplin)

By Jon Caramanica
New York Times
Friday, March 20, 2009

From left, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The band mostly performed its 1970s hits. (Photo by Robert Caplin)

House lights still dimmed, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came out onto the Madison Square Garden stage on Thursday night holding hands, then took their positions at opposite sides of the stage and got into character: Ms. Nicks the romantic mystic, Mr. Buckingham the petulant cad. At points over the next two hours Ms. Nicks would cede the stage to her former lover, disappearing backstage as if she couldn’t bear to watch, or couldn’t be bothered. Probably the latter.

This is Fleetwood Mac, the golden years, catering to two different constituencies. Mr. Buckingham, with his extravagant gestures, indulgent guitar playing and general air of preening, was trying very hard to keep a flickering flame alive — a panting salesman. Ms. Nicks, on the other hand, appeared content with laurel-resting, coasting along on the familiar: the shawls, the twirls, the fringe dangling from her microphone and, occasionally, the piercingly cloying vocals. A screen with scrolling words — lyrics, presumably — sat at her feet.

As ever, the rhythm section — the drummer Mick Fleetwood and the bass player John McVie, for whom, together, the band is named — soldiered on like exceedingly tolerant parents. Mr. Fleetwood, ponytail intact and wearing short pants that brought to mind plus fours, played with force, if not grace, and Mr. McVie succeeded by not drawing notice to himself. In a band so obsessed with role-playing, such restraint qualifies as innovation.

“There is no new album to promote — yet,” Mr. Buckingham teased early in the night. But even the most rabid Fleetwood Mac fans probably don’t crave the distraction of new songs and were perfectly content with this show, designed as a hits revue and sticking closely to the band’s self-titled 1975 album and its follow-up two years later, the tragicomic Rumours, one of the biggest-selling albums ever. (These were the first with the band’s essential lineup, which included the Buckingham-Nicks combo and Christine McVie, who no longer tours with the band.) Here, particularly on the breakup songs from Rumours, Ms. Nicks and Mr. Buckingham still had a touch of zest, making for rare moments of lightness. (Mr. Buckingham also shined on a theatrically unhinged version of “Go Insane,” from his solo album of the same name.)

Mostly, though, the band sounded desiccated. On “I’m So Afraid,” Mr. Buckingham’s guitar solo, which he accompanied with hoots and hollers, was excruciatingly long, and excruciatingly dull. On “World Turning,” Mr. Fleetwood saw him, but thankfully did not raise him, with his own numbing solo.

And just as it did 30 years ago, the band succumbed to an obstacle of its own creation, and its name was Tusk. That 1979 album, driven by Mr. Buckingham’s experimental impulses, was an overreach, burdensome and needlessly decadent. Here, after the band played the title track and “Sara” midset, it never fully recovered. Introducing “Storms,” from that album, Ms. Nicks said the band chose it for this tour because they had never played it live before, though the turgid rendition that followed made it clear why that had been the case.

Unexpectedly, the night’s most invigorating moments came when the band stepped out from its own long shadow. “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” a song from Tusk played early in the night, sounded like the Replacements, as if the band had just discovered punk. And “Oh Well,” an electric blues from before Mr. Buckingham and Ms. Nicks joined the group, was a welcome nod to the band’s early history as a tribute to something bigger than itself.

Fleetwood Mac performs on Saturday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.; fleetwoodmac.com.

For Fleetwood Mac, the flame still burns

Fleetwood Mac

By Jed Gottlieb
Boston Herald
Friday, March 6, 2009

Fleetwood Mac’s saga is like a “Friends” story arc. Couples break up, things get interesting, couples make up, things get less interesting, then the cycle repeats itself.

This makes Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks rock ’n’ roll’s Ross and Rachel (only sub out annoying drama at Central Perk, sub in genius song-writing and cocaine). And though the romance between the two may be long over, Buckingham and Nicks aren’t done with each other yet.

With the Mac back (minus the retired Christine McVie) at TD Banknorth Garden on Wednesday, Buckingham phoned the Herald to talk about the band’s first tour in half a decade and when we can expect a new album. Then Nicks called with her own take on the saga’s next chapter and to remind us that, even in their AARP years, the two’s tempestuous relationship isn’t about to end.

Lindsey Buckingham

Herald: Without a new album to promote are you going to dig into your back catalog for older, more obscure stuff to play in concert?

Buckingham: It’s a funny thing because you get into that area and it really underscores part of what makes Fleetwood Mac such a good band. There’s such a disparate range of sensibilities. What one person considers to be a worthy, obscure gem is not what another feels is right. When you include all of the songs that have been radio songs for us it defines about 80 percent of our set. The extra 20 percent is up for grabs.

Have you had a big hand in putting together the deluxe reissue of “Rumours” that’s due in May?

Not really. I’m not a huge fan of those repackagings anyway. But in light of the fact that there is no new album, it makes sense to have something out there to help the marketing of the tour. Certainly there are some curiosities on there, but I haven’t had much to do with it. I did put the kibosh on a few things that I didn’t think should make the cut. So I’ve had an editorial hand in it, but that’s it.

You’ve done two solo albums in three years, which seems like a furious pace for you. Are still writing like a madman?

Kind of, yeah. When we got off the road in 2004, I told the band, ‘Don’t bother me for about three years.’ And they didn’t, which was great. It allowed me to step up the writing frequency and get out and tour. But we had committed to do a tour months ago, so I had to cut my own tour short. The finer points aside, it was very satisfying to get to spend a few years doing my own thing. It has stepped up my creativity and put me on a whole new wavelength.

Do you recognize when you write a song if it will be for Fleetwood Mac or for a solo album?

Not really. There are certain things I write that are esoteric or idiosyncratic that I know will go on a solo record. But in general, if you look at the lion’s share of “Gift of Screws” (Buckingham’s 2008 solo album), much of that would work as Fleetwood Mac. It also comes down to the band. If they go “eh,” then it becomes a solo piece. (Laughs.)

How far along are you in planning a new Fleetwood Mac album?

We aren’t far along in any specific sense. My mantra is to work on my dynamic with Stevie. She was a little uncomfortable when we got on the road last time, for whatever reason. Part of it was that she missed Christine, part of it was that I was getting 50 percent of the face time onstage and she wasn’t used to having a guy get all that space. I think it threw her context out a little. So this time around I am very much wanting to make everyone as comfortable as possible and have that be the most important thing. But we have discussed, when this tour is done, going into the studio. The only specific we know is that we are leaning toward finding an outside producer. I think it would help to have an overviewer. It was pretty hard taking the reins last time. Not so much with the music but with the band politics.

Have any producers in mind?

We had a short a list, but I have no idea. We’ve talked about everyone form Daniel Lanois to Dave Stewart to Rick Rubin. That pretty much runs the gamut of approaches. We have to meet with a few people and see how it feels.

Looking back, does it seem like everything great that you’ve done as a band has come out of turmoil?

That’s absolutely true. Obviously “Rumours” was the personal turmoil and then “Tusk” was the artistic turmoil. Then a lot of stuff after that was dealing with levels of disillusionment, at least for me. Or it was about dealing with lifestyles that were getting out of hand on some level.

Stevie Nicks

Herald: You’ve been busy on the road for the last three summers. When did you have time to plan this Fleetwood Mac tour?

Nicks: The last three summers on solo tours and two years ago a tour with Tom Petty. I went out for seven shows and I stayed for 27. Tom asked me to stay and I said, “There’s no way I’m not going.” My manager said, “OK, but this is your vacation. Tom Petty is your vacation.”

So when did the Fleetwood Mac reunion come together?

We had a meeting between two and three years ago to talk. Lindsey had really been working hard on his solo work and decided he was going to get those one or two or three CDs done and tour behind them. He ended up using up a lot of his songs for “Say You Will” and that really didn’t fulfill his need to be a solo artist and, well, that album wasn’t the best experience for any of us. Lindsey made a decision to take a couple of years off and work on his solo stuff so he could enjoy Fleetwood Mac again. We all said, “Go ahead, have fun, rock on!”

I asked Lindsey if there was another rarity like “Silver Spring” waiting to be dug out and done live and he wasn’t sure. What do you think?

I suggested that we do “Storms” (from “Tusk”) on this tour. We have never done it onstage. The last tour we pulled “Beautiful Child” out and we’d never done that before and it went great. But what we do always comes down to is what sounds good. We’re just thrilled to play our body of work that we’ve worked so hard on over the last 30 years. We really shy away from the “Greatest Hits Tour” label because we think it sounds cheesy. It’s not just the greatest hits, it’s the familiar songs that everyone loves.

And you’re ready to jump into the studio as soon as this tour is over?

I would very much like to do that. I think the world should have one more kickass Fleetwood Mac record. This tour could go on for 135 shows, but when we come off the road we will be a finely tuned, well-rehearsed band, which is the best thing to be when you go into the studio because you’re already hot. Your chops are up, you’re singing great, you’ve been playing fantastic music for a year. And writing on the road is really fun. Not to mention that we already both have enough songs to do a record now. But it all depends on if we’re having fun and enjoying each other.

In the past it seemed you recorded or toured because you had to, it was your career. Now it seems like you don’t have to, you want to.

That’s right. Lindsey has children. He didn’t have children 10 years ago. Mick (Fleetwood) has 6-year-old twins. John (McVie) has a daughter in college and so he and I are the only freewheeling ones. At this point in our lives, especially for Lindsey and Mick, if they’re not having a good time, they need to go home and raise their kids and make music in their home studios.

What do you think of the “Rumours” reissue?

It’s pretty awesome. It’s the songs before they came to fruition, almost like the five of us sitting in your living room playing for you. Listening to it, I could rise up above my body and go back there and remember what an amazing group of people we were in those years. As I was listening to it, I thought, “This could so be now. This sounds like a brand-new band just coming out.”

It’s that fresh?

It is so amazingly fresh. But Lindsey and I joke that we could never get a record deal in L.A. today with this sound. People wouldn’t know if we were folk or country or rockabilly. Well, they said the same thing when I moved to L.A. in 1971. But when you hear this band, this really young band, and you hear Christine’s amazing keyboards and John and Mick, the bassist and drummer of life, and then stick that under Lindsey Buckingham who can do anything on the guitar, it’s spectacular.

So much of your great stuff came out of the band being a mess. If you are all on great terms will it be harder to make a great album?

No. Lindsey and I and our tragic, uptight way of doing things to each other is still the same in so many ways. In many, many ways, Lindsey and I are still the same people that we were when we met at 16 and 17. There’s a part of our relationship that remains unchanged. It doesn’t matter that he’s married with kids. It doesn’t matter what my life is. When we’re together we can still be incredibly teenage. And we still write about each other a lot. We’re still great sources of inspiration for each other. When we’re 90, whoever goes first, the other one will be sitting on a bed alone. We’ll never run out of stuff to write about.

Fleetwood Mac, Wednesday at TD Banknorth Garden. Tickets: $147-$47; 617-931-2000.

Q&A: Stevie Nicks

Fleetwood Mac’s singer on their new tour, turning 60 and making mixtapes
By Austin Scaggs
Rolling Stone
Thursday, March 5, 2009

‘IT STILL GIVES ME GOOSE bumps, and it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” says Stevie Nicks, who is eagerly anticipating the first Fleetwood Mac tour in five years, which kicks off on March 1st in Pittsburgh. And later in the month, Nicks is releasing a DVD, Live in Chicago, and a concert CD, The Soundstage Sessions. With her dog barking in the background, Nicks checks in from her home in Los Angeles: “We still feel like Fleetwood Mac have a lot to give to the world. In this time of trouble and turmoil, I think the world needs Fleetwood Mac.”

What’s the latest from the Mac rehearsals?

I don’t want to give the set list away, but it’s pretty exciting. The fact that we haven’t been on tour since 2004 makes every song sound fresh. It’s just bang, bang, bang — all fantastic songs. We always start with the staples: “Go Your Own Way,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Rhiannon” and “Dreams.” We will play one song we’ve never done at all. If I were going to see Fleetwood Mac, this is definitely the set I’d want to see. It’s like a big steam locomotive that doesn’t stop until we walk offstage.

How are you getting along with Lindsey Buckingham?

When Lindsey and I aren’t getting along, nobody’s getting along. We haven’t had one disagreement since we started rehearsing. And instead of treating me like his miserable old ex, he’s treating me like his difficult but beloved older daughter. He’s been very sweet.

How often do you speak with Christine McVie?

We check in with each other, but we can’t hang out, because she lives in England, and she won’t fly. The only time I’ve seen Chris since 1998 was when we did three nights in London in 2003. I miss her every day. But we’ve all finally started to accept that nothing could make Chris go back out on the road.

Last May you turned 60. How do you feel about that?

I don’t feel any different at 60 than I felt at 50. Age is a state of mind. You can either get old or not get old.

On the “Live in Chicago” DVD you’re joined by Vanessa Carlton on a couple of songs. What other artists of her generation do you mentor?

I love Vanessa — I feel like she’s an adopted child, in a way. And Michelle Branch and I had dinner the night before last. I have a lot of information for all of these women. I should do a “Dear Stevie” column in ROLLING STONE. When Mariah Carey was going through all her craziness a few years ago, I wrote her a long letter telling her how everybody else is crazy — not her. I saw her recently, and she told me she keeps the letter with her jewelry! I love that.

What’s wrong with the record business today?

The Internet has destroyed it. I miss buying an album and lying on the floor for three days and going over it with a magnifying glass. I still go to the record store and spend hours there and buy a bigbag of CDs. I don’t have a computer or a cellphone, because I don’t want to be that available to anybody. I’m all about mystery. Little girls think it’s necessary to put all their business on MySpace and Facebook, and I think it’s a shame.

You’ve always made mixtapes on cassette. Do you still do that?

That’s how I do it. Cassettes sound so much better. And I’m deaf as a doornail, so I like to crank my little boombox.

What songs are worthy of a Stevie Nicks mixtape?

I was just in Hawaii, and I made a mix called “Lahaina Twilight.” It’s got songs by the Goo Goo Dolls, Jackson Browne, Sting, Coldplay, Tom Petty, the Fray, Snow Patrol.

What albums do you lore in their entirety?

I don’t, usually. In the beginning, I was inspired by songwriters like Jackson Browne, David Crosby, the Eagles, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield — those are the people I learned from. And I probably listened to Joni Mitchell’s For the Roses, Blue and Court and Spark a hundred million times. But now, I can’t listen to a whole album unless it’s a Fleetwood Mac record, where I made sure that every song is spectacular. Sequencing is my forte. I sequenced Rumours. Lindsey doesn’t like to admit it, but he will admit it.

Last year, Sheryl Crow claimed that she would be part of the 2009 Fleetwood Mac tour, but Buckingham later denied it. What really happened?

It was absolutely discussed and she was absolutely invited to join. The reason was because I missed Christine [McVie] so much, and I wanted another woman in the band — it’s hard to be in the boys’ club. I explained to Sheryl what it was like to be in the group — that it’s all-encompassing. Like, on 2003’s Say You Will tour, we went out expecting to do 40 shows, and it turned into 135 shows. So Sheryl called me and said, “I’ll have to pass.” As Stevie Nicks, I was disappointed. As her friend, I told her she made the right decision. Sheryl Crow passed on Fleetwood Mac — I want that out there.

What are the origins of your patented onstage twirl?

A lot of ballet and a lot of dance. I wanted to be a ballerina, but I realized I was not going to be Pavlova, so I became a rock singer instead.

PHOTO (COLOR) [removed from article]: UNBROKEN CHAIN Nicks and Fleetwood Mack kick off their first tour in five years on March 1st.