If there is one thing that Stevie Nicks has learned during her travels as a solo artist and as a member of Fleetwood Mac, it's that the power of the band makes all the difference.
Especially, in her case, when she is on stage without as much as a tambourine to lend a hand.
So for her latest solo tour, which landed at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, Nicks outdid herself, employing a crack seven-piece band of hired guns that made even her most lackluster songs come vibrantly to life.
Delivering a greatest hits package of 14 songs -- including three dusty Fleetwood Mac killers -- all Nicks needed to bring for success was her wispy, raspy howl and a couple of shawls.
The band -- which featured Peter Michael (Sheila E.'s brother) as musical conductor and percussionist, Heart bassist Mark Andes and a superb rhythm guitarist named Michael Lennon, among others -- seemed to revive Nicks' rock 'n' roll heart, pouring the volume and crunch into hard-edged songs like "Stand Back" and "Edge Of Seventeen."
As for Nicks, she smiled perhaps more on stage during the 90 minutes last night than at any time during her career.
Still carrying some of the extra weight that first became evident during last fall's Fleetwood Mac tour for "Behind The Mask," Nicks didn't lack for her sex appeal of the 1970s. Several times during the show she stepped back, twirling about in dreamy trance, reaching for the trademark scarves that cover her microphone stand.
While the power of the band was immediately evident in the opening songs, "Outside The Rain" and Mac's "Dreams," Nicks, with help from back-up singers Sharon Celani and Lynn Mabry, easily soared above the music.
But Nicks was at her best handling the mid-tempos and ballads.
For "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," originally a duet with Tom Petty, Nicks sang both of the verses brilliantly while keyboardist Cat Gray held his own with the male chorus segment.
The crowd of more than 8,000 sat captivated during numbers like "Beauty and The Beast," "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You" and "Rhiannon," the first encore.
During the overblown ending to "Edge of Seventeen," the final song of the main set, Nicks stepped to the edge of the stage and took dozens of gifts (flowers, pictures and stuffed animals) from the mass gathered in the first three rows. Much to the crowd's delight, it seemed as if she shook every hand and had a personal word with everyone.
Nicks' insistent emphasis on old material comes as no surprise, as she will release a greatest hits package called "Time Space" in September. The album will contain virtually every solo song she performed last night as well as three new songs -- "Desert Angel," "Sometimes A Bitch" and "Love's A Maid Gone To Play" -- that she omitted from the set.