At first blush, Stevie Nicks teaming up with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders seems about as odd as, say, Joan Baez and Cher touring together. Same era (and enduring careers) but totally different vibe. But on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, ethereal, super-feminine Nicks and snarling, boyish Hynde proved that sisterhood is powerful.
The witchy woman draped in shawls and the tall rocker in Elvis T-shirt and tight jeans, who both front bands of men that landed in the Rock Hall of Fame, delivered empowering, emboldening performances. But their sets had as much in common as a sizzling steak dinner and a bland vegan meal.
Hynde and the Pretenders delivered the sizzle, a combination of their classic rockers full of driving guitars and brand-new material that sounded exciting enough to make you want to buy this year’s album “Alone.”
Hynde, 65, may have had a snarl in her voice but there was a nonstop smile on her face. She clearly relished riding the guitar glory of her band (including ex-Twin Cities guitarist Eric Heywood). She was in clear, forceful voice, pushing the religious-tolerance theme of the catchy, new “Holy Communion” and celebrating the classic marriage of rhythm and melody on “Mystery Achievement” and the harmonica-spiked “Middle of the Road.” She turned the band’s breakthrough 1979 hit “Brass in Pocket” into a confident strut, the right mixture of playfully saucy and agelessly sexy.
Hynde raised the joy when she appeared during Nicks’ headline set, for the duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” which Nicks had recorded with Tom Petty. Singing face to face, the two women animated one another, holding an outstretched arm with a hand saying “stop” like the Supremes used to do. It was hard to tell who was having more fun — Nicks and Hynde or the crowd of 10,000.
However, if many of those concertgoers were casual Nicks fans, they might not have enjoyed much of the rest of her 2¼-hour set. Early on, the 68-year-old cautioned that this wasn’t the greatest-hits show that many fans thought they were going to see. No, this was the “dark, gothic trunk of magical, mystical” stuff that didn’t go on her albums.
In other words, it was a storyteller’s evening, with Nicks telling great stories about not necessarily great songs. Unless, of course, you were as enchanted with her history and mythology as she seemed to be.
She wrote this song in Petty’s basement. It didn’t fit on a particular solo album, and she didn’t like the way Fleetwood Mac recorded it, so blah blah blah.
There were long stretches between familiar songs. “Moonlight” was the sixth lesser-known number in a row in the middle of the set, but somehow the mood changed for this piece that has garnered Nicks new millennial fans lost in the “Twilight” zone. Dressed in a full-length white fur coat, the singer was in a zone, leaning into the microphone, singing with profound conviction for the first time all night. By song’s end, it clear why — she was thinking of her late friend Prince, and she couldn’t hold back the tears.
That led to the story how Nicks called Prince to collaborate on “Stand Back” because she’d composed the words while listening to his “Little Red Corvette.” With that 1980s hit (with Minneapolis’ own Ricky Peterson on synthesizer) on Tuesday, Nicks started to gain momentum.
And, of course, she turned to Fleetwood Mac for the home stretch — “Gold Dust Woman,” “Rhiannon” and the always elegant “Landslide.” Ah, the magical, mystical charms of Nicks at last.