If the touring industry has one constant, it’s the concept of classic-rock deck shuffling, with seasoned bands teaming up in different configurations each year. The concerts provide more value to fans, but too many bills tend to involve the same acts.
In contrast, Stevie Nicks touring arenas this fall with the Pretenders—led by Chrissie Hynde—feels like an inspired pairing. Each woman boasts a formidable catalog of hits, and each became an icon behind a fiercely independent mind-set. Nicks had a built-in audience, given her involvement with Fleetwood Mac, but 1981 solo debut Bella Donna and 1983’s The Wild Heart possess gothic-poet vibes decidedly distinct from the megaband’s approach. Hynde’s first few albums with the Pretenders also subverted expectations: The music was tough and tender, snarling and vulnerable, which gave those LPs enduring complexity.
These days, the two grapple with their respective legacy in different ways. Hynde seems driven to constantly reinvent herself as a musician. The Pretenders’ latest album, Alone, produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, sounds far removed from her band’s raucous early days. The title track swaggers like a deep Stones cut, while “Gotta Wait” is a stomping fuzz-blues number. The record’s also home to sinewy garage-soul (“Roadie Man”), torch songs (the clever “I Hate Myself”) and smoldering ballads (“Death Is Not Enough”). Live, the Pretenders play plenty of hits (“Middle of the Road,” “Brass in Pocket,” “I’ll Stand by You”), but also eschew notable songs like “Night in My Veins,” “Precious” and “Talk of the Town.”
Nicks isn’t resting on past achievements either, though more and more, her creative restlessness finds her excavating and reimagining gems from her career’s nooks and crannies. As its name implies, 2014’s 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault features rerecorded demos of songs spanning multiple decades—highlighted by early-’80s piano boogie “Starshine” and scorching blues-rock rarity “Mabel Normand.” On this tour, Nicks has even dusted off “Crying in the Night” from her 1973 cult collaboration LP with Lindsey Buckingham, Buckingham Nicks.
Embracing the most beloved aspects of her music and persona has kept Nicks relevant with loyalists, but it has also helped younger generations discover her greatness—a phenomenon captured perfectly in a recent New Yorker essay, “The Resurgent Appeal of Stevie Nicks.”
As it turns out, the two women’s distinct approaches to legacy are complementary: Due to demand, the Nicks-Pretenders tour recently got extended into 2017. That popularity is a testament to the strength of their catalogs, of course—but also validates each’s decision to establish (and maintain) a career on her own terms. Both Nicks and Hynde have navigated tabloid distractions and commercially fallow periods, but have never lost confidence in their music.
Steve Nicks with Pretenders December 17, 8 p.m., $91-$275. Park Theater, 702-730-7777.