By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Aug 09, 2023 at 12:22 AM

I’m not too proud to admit that I have occasionally questionable taste when it comes to musical legends. For example, as much as I have enjoyed listening to Fleetwood Mac throughout my life, I’ve respected Stevie Nicks more than I've enjoyed her. I also didn’t get into most of her ‘80s solo work. It took until I was older to warm up to her music.

However, there’s no denying how good the 75-year-old Nicks still is, and she proved it over and over again Tuesday night at the Fiserv Forum. I left a much bigger fan than when I walked in.

From our seats, Nicks looked as youthful as ever, although I can’t show you that, because the tour promoters prohibited photography and video from our reviewer tickets. That rarely happens, but I played by the rules: You’ll have to look at the thousands of social media posts from the audience that basically recorded the whole show if you want to see pics.

Since I can only describe her look with words, I can report that Nicks kept it understated without any costume changes to her her black velvet top / black skirt / black tights ensemble. She did, however, don three different capes. Per usual, bandanas and tassels hung from her mic stand. Nicks twirled and swayed throughout her 90-minute show, like she’s done her entire long career.

Overall, Nicks fully impressed me with her pitch-perfect performance. Buoyed by the great acoustics of the arena, she sounded identical to her younger self. I could only find one flaw when she didn’t jump up an octave in the verses of “Rhiannon” or “Landslide.” But that’s pretty nit-picky stuff.

Still, I wasn’t here for myself. I was here because my teenage daughter loves Stevie, and has performed vocals in a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. She also saw Nicks at Ravinia last fall. For that birthday gift, her mother took her to the show. This was my turn, and I was happy to do it.

I knew almost every song, but my daughter knew them all. “This song eats,” she declared when Nicks dove into “Gold Dust Woman.” To me, I’ll agree that “Dreams” and “Rhiannon” eat, too.

For her part, Nicks made it clear that her pandemic-forced break from touring was hard on her.

“Welcome, Milwaukee,” Nicks said near the beginning of the show, and she shared plenty of stories throughout. “This is the second show of our sort of small tour. For three years we didn’t play. That was a long three years. Now, here I am with you in Milwaukee. Let’s just get this little party started.”

It was not hard to get swept up in the nostalgia. Nicks played exactly what one would expect her to – a set list nearly mimicking her show a few days ago in Chicago, and one very close to the concert my daughter attended last year.

Not that anyone was complaining. Her eight-part backing ensemble, directed by Waddy Wachtel, assisted Nicks through a fluid show that finished with a touching tribute to former bandmate and friend, Christine McVie, with “Landslide.” McVie died unexpectedly last November. 

All night, Nicks treated this adoring sold-out crowd to plenty of tributes, actually. She played two Tom Petty songs, honoring her former musical partner. “He’s everything you wanted him to be,” she said. She came on to a recorded version of “Running Down a Dream” and left to “Learning To Fly.”

Wachtel served as an excellent stand-in for Petty, too. He sounded enough like him on vocals, but his guitar work really ripped. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but the other guitarist wore a jacket that sure did remind me of Lindsey Buckingham (Buckingham didn’t get too many mentions tonight).

Stephen Stills is still alive, of course, but Nicks nonetheless covered Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

She further honored her fellow musical contemporaries with retro graphics on the screen behind her stage, including images of Petty, Prince (this is how you make white wing doves cry?), Billy Joel, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, among others.

Interestingly, that back screen went black 25 minutes into the show, which I assumed was a glitch. It restarted, flickering at first, with smokey graphics during “For What It’s Worth,” which coincidentally is when the first wafts of weed smoke started to emanate from the largely, and obviously, older crowd.

Of course, the audience skewed heavily female, with plenty of Stevie cosplay amusingly afoot. You couldn’t swing a microphone tassel without hitting a flowing dress or floppy hat. My daughter, dressed like Nicks, too, told me to stop making fun of the fans, but I told her I wasn’t belittling them, just enjoying their enthusiasm.

And Nicks’ story-telling left the audience in rapture.

“I always try to write in code so no one can rat me out,” she said before “Fall From Grace.” “It’s really fun to sing,” Nicks added.

Oh, and then there were the capes, including the originals from "Bella Donna” and “Stand Back.” She didn’t clarify if the gold cape for “Gold Dust Woman” was a replica or not.

Nicks says she doesn’t get politics, that she didn’t even vote until she was 71. But she is pissed about Russia. “It terrorizes me.” She dedicated “Soldier’s Angel,” from her 2011 album “In Your Dreams,” to the soldiers of Ukraine, and urged fans to vote.

Obviously, the music sounded great, but what stood out to me was the appreciation. Before “Gypsy,” Nicks talked about her rapid rise to fame, from cleaning houses and waitressing – to life as a millionaire in just a few months.

And yet, she remains grounded. Nicks said then – and now – she’ll take time out to sit on her bed and reflect to herself: “I am still Stevie.”

Judging by their enthusiasm, old and young, singing and crying, these fans are glad she still is Stevie, too.

Ingrid Andress opened for Nicks.

Set list:

Outside the Rain
If Anyone Falls 
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
Fall From Grace
For What It's Worth
Wild Heart
Bella Donna
Stand Back 
Soldier's Angel
Gold Dust Woman
I Sing for the Things
Edge of Seventeen


Free Fallin'

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.