WASHINGTON, DC — Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde, two grande dames of rock and roll, delivered their distinct musical styles to a near-capacity crowd on Monday night at the Verizon Center.
Both female forces reminded fans of their combined, nearly 90 years of expertise in crafting hit songs, with an over 3-hour-long performance.
First up, Miss Hynde, dressed in red Colonial regiment coat, Elvis T-shirt and skin-tight jeans, led her Pretenders through a 16-song, hourlong set featuring tunes from the band’s latest album “Alone,” along with a radio friendly mix of her more iconic hits.
She apparently tailored the milder set to the throngs of Stevie Nicks admirers, most of which were probably unaware of her more punkish, bad girl roots.
That meant a kindler romp through her charting years with “Message of Love,” “Back on the Chain Gang,” “I’ll Stand by You,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” “Stop Your Sobbing,” “My City Was Gone” and “Brass in Pocket” leading the way.
Despite her 65 years, Miss Hynde sang with a strong voice all night, her familiar sultry vibrato soaring through the crowd. Stalking around the stage like a tigress and wearing a guitar like a third appendage, she had a snarl as well as a smile during the whole set.
The Pretenders are now guitarist James Walbourne, bassist Nick Wilkinson, pedal-steel specialist Eric Heywood and, most importantly, original member Martin Chambers, who continues to cement his legacy as one of the world’s greatest rock drummers.
The 65-year-old dude is ageless with a ferocious hitting style as he chewed the kit up behind a Plexiglas enclosure. He entered the stage in a hooded robe, much like a boxer about to climb into the ring, and often spit water in the air, bounced sticks and perfectly sang backup when required.
It’s also worth noting that Miss Hynde has again found a fantastic lead guitarist to work with in Mr. Walbourne. He played every solo at a frantic pitch (reference the rocking “Mystery Achievement” and “Middle of the Road”) and looked like he was wrestling with rattlesnakes as he captured the rawness of a harder rock style.
And, in a testament of restraint, only twice did the singer display her activist roots, though I expected a much heavier diatribe considering she was in the nation’s capital.
Miss Hynde dedicated a haunting version of a near a cappella “Hymm to Her” to Hillary Clinton and said a new song “Holy Commotion” was about “how white supremacists are not Christians.”
Despite a great set, I could have listened to another hour. Now, what I really hoped she would do was give the rather lethargic audience, acting like the Pretenders were an opening act, a kick in the pants.
A heavy dose of “Bad Boys Get Spanked,” “Precious,” “Tattooed Love Boys” and, heaven forbid, “The Adulteress” would have sent lightening bolts through the arena that also would have surely required a trigger warning before the show.
Next up, the spry songstress, 68-year-old Stevie Nicks, continuing her “24 Karta Gold” tour, offered very much a “VH1 Storytellers” performance to the predominantly female crowd dressed in a sea of crushed velvet and shawls.
Clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, her set allowed fans to methodically appreciate her talent to spin a yarn, twirl in place and sing 19 tunes in that unique vocal style.
For example, she told a longer story about being so proud of writing the only Fleetwood Mac No. 1 hit “Dreams” and perfectly recreated that night.
She further explained that she actually has the gold 45 record encased and hung up in her Santa Monica house and every time she walks by it, she smiles and gives the single a thumbs-up.
Although Miss Nicks played many a hit from her solo and Fleetwood Mac career, such as “Gold Dust Woman,” “Stand Back,” “If Anyone Falls,” “Rhiannon” and “Edge of Seventeen,” she also catered to the rarities from her almost 50-year-old catalog of songs.
Those included the almost-never-performed title track from the 1983 album “The Wild Heart” and “Crying in the Night,” released on the album “Buckingham Nicks” way back in 1973. Miss Nicks confided that she wasn’t sure if anyone ever heard that track.
She was accompanied by a seasoned, eight-piece band composed of veterans from previous tours.
Each song was beautifully reproduced with help from back-up singers Sharon Celani and Marilyn Martin and her musical director of over 40 years, and a mighty fine lead guitarist, Waddy Wachtel.
A highlight to Miss Nicks’ set had Miss Hynde step back on stage to help sing “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Of course, fans were reminded that it was written and co-sung by her good buddy Tom Petty back in 1981, but the female infusion made it a fun take away for the audience.
Even the last song of her encore, “Leather and Lace” came with a wonderful narrative about Miss Nicks writing the piece for Waylon Jennings and his then-wife Jessie Colter. She felt the need to get final approval from her then-boyfriend, Don Henley, before delivering the finished work.
Of course, Miss Nicks, and not the Jennings, would eventually record the song as a duet with Mr. Henley in 1981, and it was one of the hits that launched her solo career.
Overall, Miss Nicks offered a career’s worth of memories all night and told her fans that dreams do come true.
Specifically, she reminded all creative souls that at any point in their life, even at 68 years old, to “never ever give up, just reach out and get those stars and bring them into you. It’s all possible.”