Dave Grohl & Stevie Nicks: The Old Dreams and New Realities of Rock and Roll
A quarter after 11 on a Wednesday night in New York City, Stevie Nicks appears onstage at the Hammerstein Ballroom before a sold-out crowd. She’s clad in various layers of black and sports a pair of sunglasses and fingerless gloves. The band behind her throttles into “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” the song she cut with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in 1981 for her solo debut Bella Donna. After the sinewy guitar figure and the first verse, a voice joins her for the bridge. It’s not Petty or her longtime Fleetwood Mac companion Lindsey Buckingham. On this evening, it’s her new musical beau—Dave Grohl.
The five-song set is the last of a star-studded evening billed as The Sound City Players with John Fogerty, Rick Springfield, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick and Lee Ving of Fear backed by Grohl’s band the Foo Fighters and auxiliary musicians, including Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. The assembled troupe debuted during the Sundance Film Festival in Utah the previous month before storming into the Hollywood Palladium Theater a few weeks later. After New York, the show will travel to London (minus some members) before being reprised—potentially for the final time—at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, where Grohl also happens to be delivering the keynote address.
The shows are in conjunction with Grohl’s documentary Sound City about the legendary, LA-based recording studio that birthed such albums as Fleetwood Mac, After the Gold Rush, Damn The Torpedoes, Terrapin Station, Nevermind, Blind Melon and Rage Against the Machine, among many others. They’re also anticipating a record of original material, Real To Reel, which came out of the film and features many of the show’s guests.
As the clock edges toward midnight, the band is at full-tilt on the show-closing “Gold Dust Woman.” This 10-minute, fuzzed-out, feedback-laden take is twice as long as the original studio version. Though there’s always been an inherent tension to it, with three guitars in the mix and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters pounding heartily on the skins, there’s now a chunky bombast that makes it anew. This isn’t shtick or nostalgia—this is new territory for the song. The crowd hoots and hollers with approval. Though two decades separate Nicks from her band-mates, you couldn’t hear a generational gap in the music.
The next day, Valentine’s Day, Nicks and the band perform her new song “You Can’t Fix This” from the film and album on Late Show with David Letterman. After the taping, Nicks and Grohl head 20 or so blocks south where they’ve agreed to sit for a conversation to discuss the state of rock and roll.
For reference, Fleetwood Mac have sold more than 30 million albums in the United States alone. Nicks’ solo records are nearing 10 million. The Foo Fighters have moved more than six million domestically while Nirvana, which Grohl served as drummer for from 1990-1994, have more than 15 million to their name in the U.S.
Both bands routinely sell out arenas across the country and you’d be hard pressed to listen to the radio and not hear their songs several times a day. Despite such massive success, Grohl and Nicks remain grounded and humble about their craft and careers which make them ideal participants for such a conversation.
Grohl arrives first, dressed in a long sleeve, blue and black plaid button-down with faded blue jeans and black Doc Martens. Nicks arrives a short while later, again in black, and retreats to freshen up before the photo shoot. When the shoot begins, there’s a palpable affection on display as they find themselves in the continued honeymoon phase of newfound friendship.
After the shoot, the two settle into a nearby couch to discuss making music in the digital age, the death of radio and the journey of making your dreams a reality.