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A warm, invigorating breeze traipsed through the Hollywood Bowl as the boomer-fantasy pairing of Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks played the first of two nights. And the coziness factor was ratcheted up as the co-headliners played hit after comfy hit for an appreciative veteran crowd that was out for a night of just that.
The L.A. stop on RaspFest ’11, officially dubbed the Heart & Soul Tour, was a pleasing if occasionally uneven affair that juxtaposed Nicks’ straightforward quasi-mystery and Stewart’s broad-playing rock-star antics. She stood at the microphone, strumming occasional air guitar and making graceful little gestures; he peacocked around the stage, preening and teasing.
Ultimately, both were entertaining — for the young, young at heart and otherwise. And that’s what it was all about.
Nicks opened with a 70-minute set that she seemed more into than during her 2009 arena tour with Fleetwood Mac, likely invigorated by a new album due May 3. “The best year of Stevie Nicks’ life just happened because of Dave Stewart,” she said of the man with whom she co-wrote much of In Your Dreams, her first studio record in a decade. Lead single “Secret Love,” a likable mid-upper-midtempo track she’d sung on The Oprah Winfrey Show three days before, drew a genuine cheer from the sellout crowd.
The rest of Nicks’ show mined her solo/Mac catalog, including three songs from her 2001 album Trouble in Shangri-La. Dressed in trademark dripping, glittery gown, Nicks, 62, began with a vocally rough “Stand Back” but settled in by the time her six-piece band locked into the laconic/iconic groove of “Dreams.” Her smoky vocal enveloped the 1977 hit.
Sometimes raspy, sometimes reedy, Nicks was at her best during crowd favorites “Gold Dust Woman” and the still-lovely “Landslide.” During the latter, a video screen showed photos of her from infancy through stardom, many featuring her father.
A hard-rocking intro to “Edge of Seventeen” — courtesy of guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who has played with Nicks for most of her 30-year solo career — fired up the crowd. But its repetitive riff and lyrics were more grating than stirring, especially in the endless version that closed her main set.
Stewart delivered his rock ‘n’ soul canon with a pro’s aplomb but without any of the Great American Songbook material that has been his stock in trade — and bread and butter — for the past decade. Instead, he showcased his legion of pop hits, from barroom rock to bedroom schmaltz, often punctuated by extended jams and theatrical codas.
His love of American soul — not necessarily blues, like so many of his British Invasion contemporaries — remains evident in his 21st century show. He covered The O’Jays and Sam Cooke (twice), and his revue-like act included brass players and female backup singers.
Stewart brought Nicks out to duet on two songs — saying she’d picked one of his and he one of hers. It turned out to be a double of shot of 1981: They traded verses on Stewart’s postdisco hit “Young Turks,” a rather uninspired choice for their vocal teaming, but rebounded with a sultry take on her “Leather and Lace.”
Stewart deployed his familiar, crowd-pleasing versions of songs by the likes of Chuck Berry, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Tim Hardin and Tom Waits along with such self-penned smashes as “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” — no less catchy or unchaste 35 years on — and the beautiful “You’re in My Heart.”
His voice held up nicely until the late stages of the 100-minute set: He meandered through “Hot Legs” — forgivable as he delighted the crowd with his trademark launching of dozens of soccer balls into the seats — and, less excusably, the set-closing “Maggie May.” Having dabbed his face with a handkerchief throughout the evening, the 66-year-old seemed fairly spent by the time he sang his breakout 1971 smash.
An encore of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” — the third of his No. 1 singles that were sprinkled throughout the ’70s — got many in the crowd dancing, but it was a rather lurching end to a solid show.
Stevie Nicks set list:
Outside the Rain
Gold Dust Woman
Fall From Grace
Edge of Seventeen
Rod Stewart set list
Tonight’s the Night
Having a Party
Young Turks (with Stevie Nicks)
Leather and Lace (with Stevie Nicks)
You Wear It Well
The First Cut Is the Deepest
Twistin’ the Night Away
Some Guys Have All the Luck
Reason to Believe
You’re in My Heart
Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller
Rhythm of My Heart
Knock on Wood
Have I Told You Lately
Da Ya Think I’m Sexy
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