Contra Costa Times, 8-4-98

Nicks' magic sputters at Pavilion concert Former Fleetwood Mac singer doesn't have what it takes to rule the stage solo

By Clay Kallam

MAYBE IT WAS the heat in the steamy Concord Pavilion that drained the energy from Stevie Nicks' concert Sunday night.

Or maybe it was the hard truth that Nicks is much better off as part of a band than trying to carry the show all by herself.

Whatever the reason, the white witch of '70s rock didn't quite cast a strong enough spell to enchant the nearly full Pavilion. It doesn't help that her uneasy relationship with proper pitch tends to fail her at critical moments (such as the first three notes she sang, and every low note in "Landslide"), or that her phrasing and intonation are somewhat less than world class. She also slides that nasal voice into the pitch far too often.

But Nicks does have just enough of a catalog, and just enough glamour, to satisfy an audience -- barely. The most successful segment of the nearly two-hour show was a three-song, semi-acoustic set that Nicks described as a trilogy tracing her move from the Bay Area to Los Angeles.

"You Never Promised Me a Rose Garden," which she wrote while a senior at Menlo Atherton High School, is an eerily clairvoyant song about the price of her musical career, and all three songs revealed her folksinger roots that were later buried in the Nicks/Buckingham/Fleetwood Mac mythology.

In fact, it's almost unfair to judge Nicks as a musician. She's more of a heroine in some bodice-ripping rock 'n' roll Gothic romance than an entertainer -- and she knows it. She made eight costume changes Sunday night, varying her long and flowing dresses with capes and shawls that all emphasized her magical persona.

Her musical persona -- despite the newly released box set, "Enchanted," which highlights her solo career -- is definitely defined by Fleetwood Mac. The audience responded most strongly to the classics ("Rhiannon" was the best of the bunch, and one of her best vocal efforts, as well), but even then, the cheers were for the song and not necessarily the performance.

The crowd did get excited by the rock 'n' roll theatrics that concluded "Edge of Seventeen," but Nicks and her competent but hardly exhilarating band had to rely on style rather than substance. Then again, the fans were not excited at all with the lengthy percussion break with Lenny Castro and Land Richards. ("Here's a news flash: People do not pay $47.75 for a Stevie Nicks' concert to hear an extended bongo solo.)

Nicks also made some strange song choices. She didn't do "Leather and Lace," and then, after announcing that no Stevie Nicks show would be complete without a Tom Petty song, she pulled out "I Need To Know" -- a song she is simply incapable of singing. Where was "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"? Or even "Free Falling" (which is included in the box set)?

Michael McDonald opened, and not surprisingly was as bland as oatmeal, but not nearly as filling. He's still got that distinctive vocal style, but the high notes have pretty much disappeared from his range. On "What a Fool Believes," McDonald let his competent but hardly exhilarating backup band take over on the falsetto parts rather than try to hold them himself. And, for those keeping score, the Doobie Brothers, who performed at the Pavilion on Friday night, were the clear winners in the "Takin' It to the Streets" competition.

Thanks to CL Moon for sending this article to us.