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Pop/rock: Stevie Nicks Brings Her Special Sound To Spectrum

Posted: May 07, 1986

Stevie Nicks, who performed last night at the Spectrum, possesses a first- rate rock-music voice - throaty and intimate, pitched low and just a little bit ragged around the edges. It is an alluring, confiding voice, yet Nicks often uses it to belt out loud, fast songs.

Therein lies the central aspect of her appeal: She sounds like a delicate waif who has decided to get tough - sheer heaven for listeners who like to think of themselves as sensitive, but not suckers.

The listeners who crammed the Spectrum last night adore their Stevie for the way she's not ashamed to tremble on the brink of romantic involvement - this is, after all, the subtext of Nicks hits such as "Edge of Seventeen," "Leather and Lace," "I Can't Wait" and any number of songs recorded with her on-again, off-again super-group Fleetwood Mac.

At the Spectrum, the fans cheered Nicks for the way she managed to project her trademark vulnerability throughout the vast arena - pouting majestically for the back rows, shaking her head to the beat in that quick, intense way that seems to say, "Hey, I think a moth just flew in my ear."

Nicks inspires devoted fans who adore her loopiest apostrophes to gypsies and wood nymphs. But the most skeptical observer would be hard pressed to deny that she is a very good rock vocalist, and occasionally an inspired one. Backed by a band led by Los Angeles guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Nicks followed a different strategy than the one usually employed by visiting stars. Instead of the usual pace - fast song followed by a slow one with predictable regularity - Nicks' show built in intensity, commencing with a series of low-key ballads and gradually increasing in tempo and volume.

By the time she delivered a furious but precise version of Tom Petty's "I Need to Know," Nicks had built up enormous drama; until that song, it was impossible to know whether she was going to let loose with a few thunderbolts or remain coolly demure.

Nicks' latest album, Rock a Little, has been roundly criticized as a piece of work that in fact rocks too little, but during her performance last night, Nicks chose the best tunes from that album and sang vivid, exciting versions of them.

By far the finest of these songs was "Talk to Me," a wonderfully intricate pop composition about love and sex and mystery, which Nicks sang with the delicate balance of passion and befuddlement that this marvelous work deserves.