May 2, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Stevie Nicks in concert!

Time for me to get caught up with blogging about music! Several weeks ago (on March 25), Jacqueline and I went to a Stevie Nicks concert at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. The Pretenders were supposed to be the opening show, but Chrissie Hynde was sick and had to cancel several performances. Frankly, she and her group were a higher priority for me, since we had just seen Stevie Nicks as part of a Fleetwood Mac concert at the very same venue (John Paul Jones Arena) two years earlier, in March 2015; my blog post about it was on July 18, 2015.

Unlike some rock musicians, Stevie Nicks has not lost her voice or skill as she has aged. I was very impressed not just by the quality of the music as well as by her earnest engagement with the audience. She is not some bigger-than-life goddess, she is a talented and creative artist who wants to share her passion about life. Most of the songs she did were preceded by a brief explanation of the circumstances by which she wrote them. In particular, I learned that "Gypsy" was about Stevie's early life in the trendy counter-culture scene in San Francisco. Then she met Lindsey Buckingham and before you knew it, those two had joined Fleetwood Mac! Overall, it was a wonderful performance, very uplifting and satisfying.

I tried to find the names of her musicians on her website, but couldn't find them there. As usual, I made a point to write down the song titles as she song them, but I had to consult the Internet to fill a couple gaps in the set list

  1. Gold and Braid **
  2. If Anyone Falls
  3. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (#TP)
  4. Belle Fleur **
  5. Gypsy (#FM)
  6. Wild Heart
  7. Belladonna
  8. Enchanted **
  9. New Orleans
  10. Star Shine **
  11. Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream) **
  12. Stand Back
  13. Crying In the Night
  14. If You Were My Love
  15. Gold Dust Woman (#FM)
  16. Edge of Seventeen

  17. Rhiannon (#FM)
  18. Landslide (#FM)

The last two songs were the encore.
** Song titles from
#FM: Song originally appeared on a Fleetwood Mac album. All songs were written by Stevie Nicks except:
#TP: Written by Tom Petty and Michael Campbell

The song "New Orleans" was written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)" was written about the movie Twilight (2008). I was a little disappointed that Stevie didn't sing "Leather and Lace," which was originally recorded with Don Henley of Eagles fame. The same goes for "Sara," which was on the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk. But she did sing two of my very favorite Fleetwood Mac songs: "Rhiannon" and "Landslide," inspiring me to play those at an open mic event a couple weeks later. (See below.) Otherwise, she did just about every big hit song from her "Bella Donna" (1981) and "The Wild Heart" (1983) albums, as well as the Fleetwood Mac hits for which she is best known.

Before the concert started, I bought the Pretenders' new CD Alone, but I have only listened to it once so far.

Stevie Nicks in concert dark

This wide-angle view of the concert was the only photo I took in which Stevie Nicks (on the video monitor to the right) was recognizable. My iPhone camera is fine in normal conditions, but can't handle sharp contrasts between dark and light.

Stevie Nicks in concert light

A closer-in view of Stevie Nicks in concert.

The most recent concert Jacqueline and I had been to before this one was Lynyrd Skynyrd, at the Rockingham County Fair on August 19, 2015; blog post January 29, 2016.

Guitar under repair

I bought my Conn acoustic guitar way back in 1975 or so, from a friend of a friend at the University of South Dakota named Carey Hofer. While I was inspecting it (and wondering if I really wanted to spend that much money!), he taught me to play the intro part of "Stairway to Heaven." It has served me well for these past four decades, and while I have considered replacing it with something better, the rich sound of an all-wood guitar is better than most mid-range guitars these days, since most of them have a body that is part plastic.

What happened was that one of the wooden braces inside the body suddenly broke while I was playing a song, without any warning. [This was on March 21, a Tuesday.] There was no bumping involved, it was apparently just the result of cumulative built-up stress. The process of getting it repaired took longer than my patience could tolerate, and I ended up taking it to a guy named Danny Dolinger who has a guitar repair shop in Bridgewater. After a few days, I had it back as good as new, thank goodness! Danny is not just a highly skilled and conscientious craftsman, he is also a local musician who performs with other guys on occasion. He looked familiar, and said he remembers me playing the Moody Blues song "Tuesday [Afternoon]" at an open mic event several months ago.

Conn acoustic guitar, CD rack

My newly-repaired Conn acoustic guitar, in front of our CD/DVD rack.

More open mic events

My first open mic performance at Queen City Brewing after returning from South America and Florida (March 15) focused on the theme of returning home after a long absence. "Back In the U.S.S.R." was especially appropriate since I had flown into Miami. (Contrary to the first line of that song, there is no airport in Miami Beach itself.) I enjoy playing the harmonica on "Take the Long Way Home," a prime example of bending notes.

Since my guitar was in the shop on March 22, I brought my charango, even though it has a warped neck that makes it impossible to play certain notes. I did my best, but it frankly sounded horrible, so I just gave up halfway through "El Condor Pasa," which was a real bummer. (That's an adaptation of a South American folk song.) Later on, Open Mic Host Fritz Horisk graciously lent me his guitar so I could play a nice Eagles song.

I skipped the next week open mic event because my guitar was still in the repair shop. Not until April 5 was it available [to me again], and I made the most of it, playing two songs I had done before and then "Landslide," in recognition of the Stevie Nicks concert Jacqueline and I had seen recently. I used the harmonica for the lead guitar part, and people really liked how it sounded. My final song was also based on a concert we had once seen (October 2005), by the Rolling Stones: [on "Sweet Virginia" I played the harmonica in the "proper" way.]

On April 12 I started with "Talkin' Baseball," which I had done once before, but I should have done it much better the second time. My rendition of "Bennie and the Jets" wowed the crowd, as I used the harmonica for the lead part, except in this case it was for lead piano. That was the first Elton John song that I had ever played in public, and it was inspired by another guy's performance of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" at the open mic event the week before. I became obsessed with learning "Bennie and the Jets" in the days that followed, and later learned more Elton John songs. My rendition of "All My Loving" uses the arpeggio (finger picking) technique rather than the fast strumming on the original song.

On April 19 I started with a challenging Beatles song using the arpeggio technique, but couldn't sustain the rhythm very well, so I'll probably strum that one next time. I thought "Your Song" sounded beautiful, but didn't get as much applause as I was hoping for. I played the other Elton John songs pretty well, but had a hard time with the vocals, having to shift octaves more than once. My voice range obviously pales in comparison to Reggie Dwight's. (That's Elton John's real name!)

Finally, on April 26 I marked the arrival of baseball season once again, but to my chagrin just couldn't deliver on the complex lead guitar part of "Centerfield," in spite of much practice. It's a song I have been working on for a few months, and I'll just have to practice it a lot more before I do it in public again. At least I did better on the other hit song from John Fogerty's Centerfield (1984) album ("The Old Man Man Down the Road"), and on the biggest hit song from his days with Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Proud Mary"). The latter was one of the first rock songs I learned to play on the guitar back in the early 1970s. I plan to do even more CCR songs I have learned recently at a future open mic event -- perhaps tomorrow!

The above songs have been added to my Music page.

Finally, for the record, at the April 10 monthly meeting of the Augusta Bird Club, I was asked to play my "bird song medley" that I did at the club's 50th anniversary dinner last December, so I did, but substituting "Tern, Tern, Tern" (Turn, Turn, Turn")" -- The Byrds for John Denver's "Back Home Again." This time I had the proper cable adapter to show the accompanying photo slide show that I had intended to show at the dinner. As for the music, however, I wasn't as well prepared as the first time.