Thursday, August 15, 2013

Following the Gypsy Highway: Stevie Nicks at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre

Friday, June 29, 2012
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Wantagh, NY

I have been a Stevie Nicks fan since my early adolescence; I can’t exactly remember when I fell for her, but it was many moons ago, when her warm spiced drink of a voice first vibrated the bones and cartilage of my ears into submission.  I really got into Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks in my early teen years.  I was at a peak in my Fleetwood Mac craze in 1997 when their live album The Dance was released.  If that CD were a record, I would have worn through the vinyl; I listened to it so many times.  I greatly love Fleetwood Mac, but was also drawn into Stevie’s solo career, having always found a sort of solace in her voice and poetic imagery as well as her enigmatic and witchy iconography.  I remember listening to her Timespace album over and over in my room during high school, it was the first way I introduced myself to the majority of her work.  Luckily around that time her music was featured in Practical Magic and she was having a bit of a comeback of sorts.  I found Bella Donna, and so on and so forth until she was tied to my heart in a tight hormonal knot.  So for all of these reasons Stevie (Fleetwood Mac) was on my Bucket List.  I had to see her before I died!  Or she died!  I had to see her!  So in early 2012 when I heard that she was touring, I freaked.  I saw that she was touring with Rod Stewart for the Heart and Soul Tour, but I wanted to see Stevie alone.  I didn’t want to share her with anyone.  If she was sharing her stage time with anybody, I wanted it to be with Fleetwood Mac!  So I panicked, looking at the tour dates, and I found a couple of shows before she joined him where she was alone.  None all too close; I think I found three that were doable.  The beginning of the tour started in New York.  The Nikon at Jones Beach.  I could do that!  I franticly purchased tickets for my best friend, Hilary, and I for an epic drive and concert.  I realized it was 6 hours away...and right on the beach...and in LONG ISLAND!  At least, I THINK I realized these things at the time?  I purchased the tickets months beforehand and sat on the idea of having to drive that far and through the traffic I would have to in order to see Stevie.  I tried my best to remain Zen.    “Oh, I’m doing it.”  Finally, the day came.  It would be a journey of decently sized proportions to finally witness the live performance and essence of the woman whose music has been an emotional salve for me throughout much of my life.  In June of this year I traveled to see Stevie Nicks at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater with my best good friend and it was “Bucket List Epic” in SO many ways! 

The drive to Long Island was basically insane and great, in a road-schooled, fight-or-flight, nervous-cool kind of way.  I had never driven through traffic like that in my life; I had never been on a 6 lane expressway as the driver in a vehicle before.  This entire trip was very symbolic of my growth and personal ability.  We were just a pair of best girls on an epic adventure, like Thelma and Louise, only hopefully not even remotely like Thelma and Louise, other than the car ride, and an added concert.  Maybe more like Gypsy 84?  Yeah, probably NOTHING like Gypsy 84, other than we were heading to see Stevie Nicks.  (Crazy movie; watch it if you haven’t.)  Best good pals...on a road trip to the big city beach venue to see a female rock and roll icon and put our feet in the water.  Instead of driving off of a cliff we were going to stand head to head with the ocean and look Stevie Nicks straight in the eyes.  Well, at least into her large sized eyes on the teleprompter.  This wasn’t just a concert; this was a journey of a lifetime.  No big deal. 

There really is no telling what can happen on a road trip adventure, so I kissed my child goodbye that morning and hoped to face this travel demon bravely and wisely.  I had a copy of printed directions and a Tom Tom, as well as a copilot; this would be fine!  It was only Hilary and I on this trip, the fate of the evening rested in our hands.  We were 6 hours away from the Nikon.  Would we see Stevie Nicks that night, or would our car plummet off of the George Washington Bridge?  There was no doubt in my mind that we would roll onto the beach, stand in the surf, and then view a momentous performance by Ms. Stevie Nicks as the sun sank into the sand.  Let’s went! 

Behind the wheel, I was on fire.  When faced with wild traffic and the expressways, I immediately went into the survival mode needed in order to traverse the roads with the city folk.  I had ridden into New York City and large cities before, although I had never driven into such an area myself until this point.  I wasn’t going INTO the city, but I was driving through the Bronx and heading at NYC and through it, on to the historical Long Island shore.  I made myself proud, real proud.  There were moments during this trip where I looked out at what I was driving through or past and I was taken back by the fact that I was commanding the vehicle.  “I’ll ride anywhere with you,” Hilary said upon our return.  We had survived tolls, city merges, The Bronx Expressway, a loop dee loop designed on acid.  I gained a lot of driving knowledge and experience on this trip.  It has prepared me for great things.  We arrived at Jones Beach on schedule.  We pulled into the Nikon elated with “GOAL” practically beaming out of my pupils and asked about gas, forgetting there were no service stations in the park.  We drove back into Long Island and got some gas for our home trip and bought lunch at an authentic Long Island deli before heading into Jones Beach for the evening of evenings.  I even made myself proud there, and we even talked to an authentic Long Islander that gave us directions to an excellent deli to eat at.  A sandwich and a drink and it’s back to the beach.

The beach was centering; it was the calm before the storm, or afterwards, or the eye?  I’m not sure, it was something.  It seemingly took us forever to trudge through the sand, our shoes in hand, my camera dangling from my neck snapping pictures along the way.  It was a real in-the-moment moment.  The drive was the first leg of our journey, the first “battle”, our second was the ocean.  We were on a mission.  We had to get to that water.  It was the symbolic end of the drive.  GOAL!  Hilary had never touched the ocean before; she had seen it and been in the sand, although she had never submerged her feet into its lapping surf.  Its vastness is somewhat unnerving to her.  Understandably so, it’s as deep as the void, the metaphor is strong, but that’s another story and battle all together.  The prize was to sink our feet into that sand and let the tide pull away, burying our feet slowly; one of the best sensations in life.  I remember doing this as a child during our trips to the beach.  How could I describe to her how momentous this feeling was?  She simply had to experience it for herself.

Jones Beach was really neat.  You could see the Nikon across the Ocean Parkway in the distance while standing on the beach.  The sand felt amazing and we stood for what seemed like hours watching people swim and play, watching the waves come in and roll out, listening to the birds in the moment.  A part of the goal was accomplished.  We had made it there, at least!  We stood recharging ourselves in the wind of the waves for awhile.  Let’s roll on. 

The Nikon is an impressive venue, a circus of sorts behind the gates.  There were booths and venders everywhere.  We purchased Zippo lighters from the Zippo booth; ironic, we travel all the way to New York and we buy Pennsylvania made Zippo lighters as souvenirs.  I also later got a Stevie Nicks t-shirt and magnet as swag.  The Nikon is an amphitheatre alongside the bay, open to the heavens.  The nosebleed section surely would have a bird’s eye view of the ocean, in this way I wondered if they could charge more for worse seats?  Ha!  We got yummy fruity drinks and then got settled in our seats and awaited Stevie.  We missed the opening act completely, but the timing was ultimately perfect, so who cares.  We were there for Stevie Nicks.   

Stevie is some kind of a musical goddess.  Ms. Nicks is truly everything she seems to be.  Not that I am biased but seriously if any one of you talks bad about Ms. Nicks I will backhand you with a vinyl copy of Bella Donna and choke you with a flowing scarf.  She was so very intimate with the audience and so emotional during her performance.  She had nice personal chats in between songs, talking to us like we were old friends.  She even started crying at the end during her “goodbye”.  She was conveying how important this night was to her, being the first night on her newly starting stretch of tour after weeks of battling voice problems.  The unconditional love and acceptance from her fans touched her in a way that we were able to experience first hand that night.  She honestly loves us.  

I was prepared for the setlist somewhat because I had familiarized myself with her 2011 setlist.  This was still the same tour, basically, promoting In Your Dreams, so I was so glad that I had done so because I was basically aware of every song that she would play for us that night, aside from their order and a few surprise covers.  I think she opened with Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll, followed by Enchanted, I believe.  We heard everything from Dreams, Gold Dust Woman, Landslide, Leather and Lace, Stand Back, Edge of Seventeen.  From her In Your Dreams album she played For What It’s Worth, which brought me to tears.  I had been waiting to hear that song and in a weird way, that's what this trip was all about, and I had a moment during its play under the moon light at the Nikon, 6+ hours from home...just me and my best good pal.  She also played from In Your Dreams: Soldier’s Angel, Secret Love, and Annabel Lee.  So many new songs, so many classics; so many songs that were so incredibly moving to experience live were performed beneath a gorgeous moon in a gentle wind.  This concert was the most emotional one I have ever been to in my life.  It was a triumphant, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar kind of feeling!  I cried and my heart pumped and I smiled and bounced.  Gold Dust Woman literally made my nipples hard.  Stevie Nicks totally gave me hard nips! Bless her darling heart!

It was a clear evening with crisp air and was slightly windy along the waterside.  The night air from the bay kept blowing up across the crowd, blowing up across Stevie Nicks.  Her hair and scarves and black flowing dress danced in its gusts like magic.  No hat for her on this night, for she surely would have lost it.  The wind blew her golden hair into her face continuously throughout the show, a shimmering air-made pyrotechnics show, making her all the more glorious and captivating.  The moon was ghostly and blanketed under a shroud of clouds.  We floated back to the car on a high that could never be relived, refelt, or recreated. 


Her voice was like literal butter, melting down my ear canals and over my ear drum and inner bits like they were freshly popped corn kernels.  I couldn’t believe that I was hearing her voice in real time and not on a recording or on television.  I reflected on that fact and immediately my eyes welled up.  I had been listening to Stevie Nicks for so long.  It was a real life goal seeing her perform live, and she lived up to everything I made her out to be. It was amazing that she was having such problems with her voice because other than a few places, you couldn’t even detect flaw.  You wouldn’t even be able to tell she had no voice a few weeks prior.  She was obviously a little worried about it but carried on and she was marvelous.  I commend her for being so open and frank about her plight with the crowd and her love for everyone just seems so genuine and heartfelt.  She sounds just like herself, she sounds just like Stevie Nicks.  This, unfortunately, can not be said about everyone that you see live.  

She dressed like a night gypsy, in her traditional flowing black shawls and scarves, with corsets and boots.  Toward the end of the performance she changed into a beautiful white ensemble.  During her performance of Stand Back she did the traditional spin, somehow managing not to fall in her huge platform boots.  She later said that the shawl was the original “Stand Back Shawl” from the video, I believe she meant.  I had been listening to this song hardcore for a week or more at the time and had hoped I would be able to hear it.  Later on the drive home it would be playing as I was speeding along the Bronx Expressway flowing with the night traffic. I was empowered in that moment.  Smiling to myself, I knew we would get home fine.  There were no worries in that moment.  I was driving home on the high of a major goal accomplished with my artistic vein pumping.  I was high on experience.

She carried on a conversation with the crowd like we were old friends, talking of things from years ago or preparing for this tour.  She was very emotional because of the height of the night; this was the first night of her new tour and her voice had given out a few weeks earlier.  She discussed her obstacles and her accomplishments, all in a tone that let you believe you could really be her pal.  She seemed like such an honestly cool woman, and she even commented on how she is remarkably like how she used to be before she became famous.  Her guitarist knew her back in the day before these days, and he plays with her now.  She said he can verify it.  Imagine, being friends with someone and then touring with them after they are a famous music icon. 

Her backup singers are made up of her sister-in-law and other women she has known for years.  Her guitarist she has known since before she was famous.  They all have a really good stage relationship.  The guitar is really great and the drummer was very enthusiastic.  They did an excellent job recreating her songs, especially considering the Fleetwood Mac ones were done without Lindsay Buckingham and her solo stuff was heavy on the synthesizer.  Stand Back was a good version and very fun, it sounded good, though obviously not like the original.  She spoke of how Prince came into the studio while they were recording it on her AXS Concert and laid down the synthesizer track and then disappeared.  Now two keyboardists can’t recreate what Prince did on that record.  But it was still a great attempt at recreation of the classics, and a wonderful show of the new stuff. 

She was incredibly gracious with the audience, exiting the stage after the encore and the bow, but then coming back out to shake hands and greet all of the audience members in the front rows which is something that I had never seen before in a performance.  She was touching children and taking flowers.  There was a man by her side with his arm around her waste, lest she be swept away by a fan or the wind or fragility.  (Perhaps insurance against those boots?)  She was wonderful.  She was a lady and a true entertainer. 

The drive home was rough, being that I left New York around 11PM and didn't get into native terrain until heading on 5:30.  After my copilot fell asleep I blasted Old Crow Medicine Show and sang to myself to keep myself awake.  There were some blurry eyed moments on the interstate but we rolled into town just as the sun was coming up.  I dropped off Hilary and went the long way home, stopping at the crossroads view to watch the freshly risen sun over the rolling hills of home.  I gathered myself and let what just transpired settle a little, and then headed on down the grove to put myself to sleep, a new woman.  This ride and concert brought out my inner feminine strength and was just what I needed at that moment in 2012!  "See, we don't need the guys.  We can go ANYWHERE!" Hilary stated.  True that!  It gave me an energetic burst that got me through more days of that year, and released a lot of emotion while giving some areas in my life a crystalline piece of closure.  It was kismet.  

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