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Review: Stevie Nicks brings a ‘Landslide’ of hits, plenty of heart to Raleigh show

In the late 1970s, amid the superstardom that came with the success of two Fleetwood Mac albums, Stevie Nicks occasionally had to ground herself, which she did somewhat literally by dragging her mattress onto the floor.

There, covered in flowers and drapery fabric, she could think back on having to do housekeeping to subsidize her music career, and remind herself that even with the newfound fame, “I am still Stevie.”

The 16,000 or so people who heard her tell that story Friday night at Raleigh’s PNC Arena never doubted: She still is.

About to turn 75, recovering from a month of illness, wearing low-heeled boots to coddle an injured toe and grieving — like her fans — the loss of former Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie and friend and collaborator Tom Petty, Nicks poured it all onstage.

She reached for and hit the notes. She belted. She hauled out the capes, the drapes and the fringe. She twirled. She floated across the arena stage the way her songs have floated in and out of our lives for nearly 50 years.

Photo gallery: Stevie Nicks brings solo, Fleetwood Mac hits to Raleigh concert

I first heard Stevie Nicks in 1977, shortly after Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” had been released on LP and 8-track tape. My friend Donna slammed that huge cartridge into the player in her ‘72 Pontiac GTO and turned it up loud so we could hear it over that big engine.

It was so different from everything playing on the radio at the time: Commodores, Marshall Tucker Band, Queen, Heart, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Linda Ronstadt, Andy Gibb — all equally great music to the largely undiscerning teenage ear.

But even we knew Fleetwood Mac, often led by Stevie Nicks’ vocals, was different. The blend of blues and rock in the sound, the guitar breaks and the big heartbeat of a drum through the music had us singing along and banging dents into the dashboards of our friends’ cars. And the lyrics, whether by one member of the band or collaborations by several, spoke to us in that complicated time of our lives when so much was happening in and around us we couldn’t begin to understand it all. But Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood understood, and set it to music.

In those days, high schools in Greensboro allowed us to leave campus for lunch, and five of us would pile into that GTO for a 37-minute escape from class, screaming along with the music, relishing our youth and our friendships and letting them both fly out the open windows without even seeing them go.

“Rumours” was so good, we went back and bought the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album that marked Nicks’ and Buckingham’s entrance into the band.

After high school, I kept that music in my collection and listened to it when I needed it, along with much of the solo work Nicks did apart from Fleetwood Mac. And yet, somehow I never managed to see Fleetwood Mac or Stevie Nicks live.

So to celebrate finally getting to see her in concert and to show solidarity with the woman whose writing about her heartbreaks helped me survive my own, I wrapped myself in black sequined rayon and a shawl. Amid some of the more hardcore fans, I was under-dressed.

But all of us were rewarded with music that honored Nicks’ long career, a theatrical 17-song set that played out over more than 90 minutes and featured stellar breaks by guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who did much more than try to recreate Buckingham’s brilliant work. The night’s renditions of Petty’s “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” along with “Gypsy,” “Soldier’s Angel,” “Sara” and “Rhiannon” were outstanding, and when Nicks sang “Landslide” as a tribute to Christine McVie, it was hard not to weep.

Throughout the show, Nicks donned a series of different capes — she doesn’t call them shawls — including the one she used when touring after her first solo album, “Belladonna,” came out in 1981. She held out her arms to show off the navy blue fabric with the long bullion fringe and said this one had “been mended a million times.”

So had she. So have we.

Stevie Nicks concert setlist, Raleigh, NC, May 12, 2023

1. Outside the Rain/Dreams

2. If Anyone Falls

3. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

4. Fall From Grace

5. For What It’s Worth

6. Gypsy

7. Wild Heart/Bella Donna

8. Soldier’s Angel

9. Stand Back

10. I Sing for the Kings

11. Gold Dust Woman

12. Sara

13. Edge of Seventeen

*** Encore ***

14. Free Falling

15. Rhiannon

16. Landslide