Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde surely glistened when the 48-stop 24 Karat Gold Tour reconvened in Reno.
The Pretenders, which opened the Feb. 23 show at the Reno Events Center, carry the aura of a hard-working underdog band. Hynde made clear from the beginning she is not content being confused at all as a nostalgia act.
Hynde epitomizes the word fierce. She strutted, sauntered and prowled across the stage, alternating between guitar and straightforward vocal duties. Her voice has every bit the edge and grace from the band’s 30 year-old records.
After a prompt 7:15 p.m. start, the Pretenders played to a still-entering and tepid crowd. Alternating aggressiveness with borderline tenderness, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band was clearly in the midst of an “on” performance. Reno’s slowburn response grew noticeably with each song.
Hynde told the sellout crowd of more than 7,000 the musicians enjoyed their time in Reno gearing up for this leg of the tour, shouting out the name of a midtown vegetarian restaurant, Great Full Gardens (Hynde, notably vegetarian herself, has owned restaurants), laughing they’d been visiting “twice a day,” along with Recycled Records and the Peppermill. The guitarist showed off his T-shirt sporting the name of one of Reno’s vintage clothing stores, Dick Diamond’s Golden Jackal.
When the band hit the second half of its set and the radio songs began to flow, the predominantly Nicks crowd response was summed up by the girls next to me who said, “I knew all those songs but never knew it was the Pretenders.” A string of upbeat songs followed: “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” “Talk Of The Town” and “Middle Of The Road,” ending with Hynde commanding the width of the stage while belting out the harmonica parts. The highlight was the lone ballad, “I’ll Stand By You,” when the quieter instrumentation at one point gave way to the collective singalong sound of the crowd.
Fiery but friendly, Hynde and the Pretenders concluded to an eruptive response. The band, even down to its simple hanging textured backdrop, chose chops over frills and showed plenty of chemistry and presence in an hourlong set.
Nicks, Fleetwood Mac’s former frontwoman, promised a more deep-track flavored selection, saying “We didn’t want to give you the same Stevie Nicks set you’ve been seeing for years.” The set carried no air of needing to be earned.
The lace dresses and off-the-shoulder frocks lining the rows of attendees showed who the crowd had come to see. In contrast to the Pretenders’ urban strut and rockabilly dress, Nicks’ eight-piece band wore vests with button-down shirts and slim dresses. Nicks addressed the crowd with a jumpy and off-the-cuff manner, recalling stories and memories to go along with most songs in her set. Nicks’ unabridged memories touched on how songs and albums came to be, insights into how she chooses to communicate her ideas in poems, and she mentioned 40-year-old vaulted demos that are seeing their first live performances this tour. Her storytelling further endeared her to the crowd.
A brief collision of the night’s polar directions occurred shortly into the set when Nicks began to sing her Tom Petty duet, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” A few bars into the song, Hynde emerged from backstage to handle Petty’s vocals, with the two locked eyes and were all smiles throughout the song. It was the first spike in a set that would include a few.
Nicks knows well it takes only for her to twirl with outstretched arms, flash an image of friend and past-collaborator Prince on the digital backdrop, or move across the stage with her tambourine to elicit a roaring response from the crowd. Her vocals have noticeably lost a bit of their range over the years, but in a two-plus hourlong set, she went as far back as pulling from her 1973 “Buckingham Nicks” record to a solo selection favoring her earlier “Bella Donna” and “The Wild Heart” albums.
She also played the standard, much-anticipated hits “Gold Dust Woman,” “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.” And rousing seizure-tempting displays for “Stand Back” and “Edge of Seventeen” charged up the lulls following costume changes.
It was a night of contrasts but also of cohesion.