"We've followed her for seven cities now," a man 20-years-my-senior told me midway through Stevie Nicks' 18-song set. "Amazing, after all these years, she's still got it."
She never lost it. Backed by a multi-piece band that included a pianist, hammond organist, two backup vocalists, a drummer, bassist, and longtime musical director and guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Nicks' brought a storied discography to life — a "gothic trunk of lost songs." Tracks she wrote over the span of 40 plus years; deep cuts from albums that seldom or never got the live treatment. The audience didn't mind, an eclectic bunch: mothers and daughters, married couples and young couples, a man in a top hat hopelessly waving a bouquet of white roses in Nicks' direction, a pack of gypsies who led me to my seat.
The energy was palpable, though, when Nicks and co. rolled through Fleetwood favorites like Gypsy
, a moment when anyone still sitting found their feet; Gold Dust Woman
, made bigger than ever by her band; Rhiannon
, the alcohol had taken hold by this one, there was lots of aisle-dancing; and Landslide
, the stripped down closer, during which there was lots of hugging and audible disappointment that the show would soon end.
Nicks, donning a black dress with flowing sleeves, a sequined shawl, black fingerless gloves, and, for "Bella Donna," the original silk chiffon scarf ($2,000 when purchased, "ah, shit
, that's a lot of money, Stevie," said a concerned person behind me) draped over her in the 1981 promos, paused briefly after her first song and scanned the Fedex Forum.
"You have to let us, for a minute, sink into your Memphis-ness," she said. "You know this is a very special city. This is on that list of cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville, Memphis, New York — where you come into the city knowing those are the important shows. I'm extremely happy to be here in your musical city that has so much history."
Each song came with a story, a bit of nostalgia about who she was and where she was when they were written. Stand Back
was born after Nicks heard Prince's Little Red Corvette
on the radio and wrote lyrics around his melody. After getting his approval, Prince visited her in the studio, where he played on the track, and the two played a game of basketball. A montage of photos of Prince would later appear on screen behind her, a source of motivation for Nicks.
"The sad thing is now he's gone," Nicks said. "But when I sing Stand Back
, he's here. When I'm nervous, I say, 'Prince, walk with me.' And he does."
Nicks' storytelling broke up what could have been a traditional arena rock production. "I could do this until I'm 90 years old," Nicks said. "Because I have fans who are kind enough to listen." Her diving into the details brought a closeness to the audience, removing a wall. We could have been in her living room. When she went into Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
, which she wrote with Tom Petty as their friendship blossomed, show opener Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders appeared from the darkness to sing.
Earlier in the evening, The Pretenders' bare-bones band — drums, bass, guitar, pedal steel — showcased Hynde's magnetism. On "I'll Stand By You," Hynde's vocals were as powerful as they've ever been. Wearing a Shangri-La Records T-shirt, Hynde said the band had a better experience in Memphis this go around, visiting Graceland and Imagine Vegan instead of the jail where she was once held overnight for disorderly conduct.
"Memphis is progressing in the right way," Hynde said. "But I didn't go to the jail where I was held overnight for kicking out the windows of a police car. They didn't want me back."
Closing the show, Nicks revisited 1973, when she lived for three months in Aspen, Colorado on $250. One evening while home alone in a condominium where she was renting a room, Nicks' wrote Landslide
on an acoustic guitar, finding the lyrics as they came to her.
"I was a little girl, and I wrote this little song, and this little song took all of us to the top," Nicks said. "Did I ever dream I'd be in Memphis playing for you?"