[Live Review] STEVIE NICKS + PRETENDERS (Hunter Valley)

Bimbadgen Estate, Hunter Valley
Saturday November 11, 2017 :

This drive from the Central Coast up to the Hunter Valley for one of their fine concerts has been a regular occurrence for myself over the past 10 years. In fact, let me do a quick count….. looks like the Stevie Nicks and The Pretenders double header is #29 for me, and to be honest, the trip never gets old. Arriving not long after the gates had opened, we lay claim to our patch of grass, grab a bottle of champagne, open the crackers, cheese and dips, and allow the warmth of the sun to wash away the weekday stress. Clear skies, a slight breeze and lovely company – we have picked a beautiful day to be in the Hunter. To make it even better we get some of the best classic rock as our soundtrack.

Before long, Melbourne’s Ali Barter takes the stage to deliver a short, sharp set. ‘One Foot In’, ‘Cigarette’ and ‘Girlie Bits’ were great to hear live, though Ali was distracted for much of her set by her new white Gibson SG. Extended breaks between songs in an attempt to tune the damn thing lost the crowd’s attention at times.

Chrissie Hynde is an absolute star, and one that does not take fools lightly. Prior to her set, we were all asked to keep our mobile phones in our pockets. We were asked a few times actually. By the 5th song, it was clear that Chrissie had had enough, walking to the front of the stage, arms outstretched, encouraging everyone to get their photo so she could get onto the show.

Pretenders opened their set with a couple of tracks of their new release, Alone. Probably not the beginning that most punters were looking for, but hey, it’s the artist’s prerogative to deliver the performance they wish. Third song in we received ‘Message of Love’, and the crowd lit up. It was a set full of hit – ‘Talk of the Town’, ‘Back on the Chain Gang’, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ and ‘Middle of the Road’ were lapped up by the crowd. Highlight of the set was the ballad ‘I’ll Stand By You’ which caused us all to grab the one’s we love. It was a beautiful moment to be a part of. Closing with ‘Brass in Pocket’, Pretenders presented an extremely high bar for Stevie Nicks to jump over.

As the sun settled behind the Hunter Valley hills, Stevie Nicks began a 19 song set that would take us all the way back to her 1973 Buckingham Nicks album, through her solo albums, her Fleetwood Mac classics, outtakes and demos, all interwoven with personal stories about the creation of these songs and her career. In all honesty, the performance could have been labelled “In Song and Words”.

Highlights were many. Chrissie Hynde’s duet on ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ was an emotionally charged moment, with her love for Tom Petty hanging heavy in the air. In fact, Stevie’s love for Tom was on show all night, as was her admiration for Prince.

Stevie’s solo work, tonight predominately from her debut, Bella Donna, and it’s followup, The Wild Heart, sat strongly alongside her well known Fleetwood Mac compositions. ‘Stand Back’, ‘Bella Donna’, and the main set closer, ‘Edge Of Seventeen’ had the crowd on their feet and in full voice. And then, when she started dropping Fleetwood Mac classics into the set, it becomes a nostalgic trip that is hard to beat. ‘Gypsy’ appeared early in the set, and ‘Dreams’ mid set was sublime. These are such beautiful songs that we hold tight in our hearts. ‘Rhiannon’…. you cannot think of this song without Stevie appearing in your mind. It is a high point in the career of both Fleetwood Mac and Stevie, and tonight, as the opening song of the encore, we closed our eyes and allowed the song wash over us.

Personally, the night was truly special, and as ‘Landslide’ closed the night, I felt blessed to have been here. The only negative came not from the stage, but from the drunk punters who did not take too kindly to Stevie’s stories that appeared between each song. Stevie was very chatty, recounting the birth of many of her songs which 99% of the crowd was enthralled with. Unfortunately, all it takes is that rude and disrespectful 1% to spoil it for us all. It was embarrassing. All I hope is that Stevie did not hear the calls for her the shut up, or the slow claps. Hunter Valley, you can do so much better.

Reviewer : Catherine Shelvey
Photographer : Kevin Bull




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