Outspoken Stevie Nicks casts a spell in heartfelt United Center show

As much as she is a gifted songwriter, Nicks is also a great storyteller and had several yarns to spin with the crowd, including how her parents moved to Chicago while she was still enrolled at San Jose State University. It was the first move she didn’t make with her nomadic parents and fatefully led to her start in music.

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Stevie Nicks performs at United Center on Friday night.

“Someday I’ll talk to you about what it’s like to lose Christine [McVie]. … I can’t do it yet, but maybe someday over a glass of wine,” Stevie Nicks said, her voice cracking as she wrapped up her moving headlining performance at United Center Friday on night.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Finding beauty in the struggle and a voice amid heartbreak has been the cornerstone of Stevie Nicks’ unending talent. Her gift takes on even new weight in 2023, as the prolific singer-songwriter tours while mourning the loss of her “best friend” and Fleetwood Mac cohort Christine McVie, who passed away unexpectedly last November.

“Someday I’ll talk to you about what it’s like to lose Christine. … I can’t do it yet, but maybe someday over a glass of wine,” Nicks said, her voice cracking with emotion as she wrapped up her moving headlining performance at United Center Friday night.

Nicks and her talented eight-part backing ensemble — led by the incredible guitarist/music director Waddy Wachtel — did so with a solemn salute of “Landslide,” one of the biggest and most poignant songs Nicks wrote for Fleetwood Mac in 1975. A confessional for navigating the way forward as life changes, it’s a message that takes on even more gravitas now.

Stevie Nicks performs at United Center on Friday night.

Stevie Nicks performs at United Center on Friday night.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Moving “Landslide” to the end and dedicating it to McVie, complete with a black-and-white photo montage of the two that played across the video screens, was one of the marked differences in Nicks’ latest two-hour, 17-song set that largely mirrored her show under the stars at Ravinia last September.

Even so, the emotional pull felt different nine months later. The celebration of seeing Nicks live was buffered by the thought that Fleetwood Mac is likely wrapped up, while a large part of Friday night also felt like a séance for the giant ghosts of music past, with Nicks as the audience medium. It added to the ongoing sense of urgency to see the legends while we still can (and no doubt led to a near-capacity crowd at the UC).

There was a Prince tribute during the “white-winged dove” of “Edge of Seventeen” as well as Nicks’ ongoing tributes to late friend Tom Petty. In addition to a heartfelt serenade of his “Free Fallin’,” Nicks dug out her 1981 duet with the Heartbreakers frontman, the ever-catchy “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” She prefaced it by recalling what a timely gift it was from Petty, as her record label scrambled to find a single to help explode her debut solo album “Bella Donna.”

That LP was much of the focus of the night, with 75-year-old Nicks sounding as pristine as ever and celebrating by donning the original shawl “cape” she wore during the “Bella Donna” promo shots and videos (and the one she originally wore for “Gold Dust Woman”). It was her only costume change of the night, met with uproarious applause as she did little twirls around the stage.

As much as she is a gifted songwriter, Nicks is also a great storyteller and had several yarns to spin with the crowd, including how her parents moved to Chicago while she was still enrolled at San Jose State University. She noted it was the first move she didn’t make with her nomadic parents and fatefully led to her start in music. “It’s a good thing I didn’t change my mind,” Nicks joked.

Later, she covered Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” talking about Stephen Stills writing it in homage to the Sunset Strip curfew riots in the ’60s.

“This song has traveled all the way from 1966 to 2023 and still makes a statement,” Nicks said, sharing that had she been old enough and in L.A. at the time, she would have participated in the demonstrations.

Her hippie heart continued to shine with a moving delivery of “Soldier’s Angel,” from her 2011 album “In Your Dreams.” Originally written after Nicks visited American soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the early 2000s, it’s being revisited on this tour as a tribute to the people of Ukraine.

“I stand for democracy, I stand for freedom, I stand for Ukraine,” Nicks shared, reading a speech from a teleprompter in order to not mince words. The number ended with blue and yellow flashing lights on the video screens and a QR code that audience members could scan to donate to the UN’s crisis relief fund.

A video screen projects Stevie Nicks’s image as she performs at the United Center.

A video screen projects Stevie Nicks’ image as she performs at the United Center.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Finding throughlines of past and present and adapting archive songs to modern context is the true mark of a legacy artist, and the practice is just one part of what makes Nicks so alluring and worshipped by multi generations, even though it’s been nearly 10 years since she released a new album. Droves of fans came bedecked in flower crowns and their best witchy wear, some with binoculars to get a closer look at the woman who has inspired a whole new legion of singer-songwriters (see her close relationships with Taylor Swift and Haim, and even Riley Keough’s eponymous lead character from “Daisy Jones”).

And she’s clearly not done yet, promising to see everyone “next time.”

Nicks’ tour continues through 2024 coupled with co-headlining dates with Billy Joel.

SET LIST

  • Outside the Rain
  • Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
  • If Anyone Falls
  • Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
  • Fall From Grace
  • For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
  • Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac)
  • Wild Heart
  • Bella Donna
  • Stand Back
  • Soldier’s Angel
  • Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
  • I Sing for the Things
  • Edge of Seventeen
  • Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
  • Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
  • Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
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