By the Way

Stevie Nicks shared her Katrina story at a sold-out New Orleans show

Stevie Nicks sings ‘Rhiannon’ during a surprise 2016 performance after the curtain call for the musical ‘School of Rock’ in New York.
Stevie Nicks sings ‘Rhiannon’ during a surprise 2016 performance after the curtain call for the musical ‘School of Rock’ in New York. AP File

I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the only person under 55 on the Gulf Coast who doesn’t get overly excited about live music or going to a concert.

Sure, I don’t mind going to a concert or two if I love the artist, but you won’t catch my diva self trekking through mud at a festival or standing in the sun all day to get stomped on by drunk people and smell patchouli and nachos while waiting for the headliner who is 45 minutes late.

It’s just not my thing.

My boyfriend, Alec, loves Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Like, he really loves them. Me? I love singing “Landslide” in my car and recently learned the words to “Rhiannon” because Alec plays it about once or seven times a day.

When his parents got him tickets to see Stevie in New Orleans, I knew it was going to be a concert he’d remember forever. So I wanted to make it special for him.

And by special I mean I wanted to be on my best behavior to make sure he had a good experience.

“I know this isn’t your thing, so if you could just dance when I ask you to dance and record when I tell you to record, that would be great,” he told me as we were parking. Miraculously, we made it to New Orleans and parked with minutes to spare before Stevie’s opener, The Pretenders, took the stage, and we didn’t murder each other. Praise be.

I got Alec a beer and myself a Diet Pepsi and waited for Stevie to take the stage. The faint smell of pot (and a little bit of body odor, courtesy of the drunk dude sitting behind us) wafted through the air.

My phone was in my hand, ready for Alec’s command to hit record.

Stevie, whose voice is undeniably haunting, gravelly and beautiful, came out in one of her famous capes, and the lighters came out and people started to scream.

I watched Alec’s eyes get big. It seemed a magnet had pulled his entire body more toward the stage.

I was waiting for a tear or two to fall, but it was me who began to get emotional as Stevie told us a story about what she was doing as Hurricane Katrina barreled toward the Gulf Coast in 2005.

She was not working at the time, she said, and she loved to draw and make art when she wasn’t recording an album. Stevie liked to play the television while she drew, for background noise, but she rarely watched it. But when she saw Katrina, she said she became mesmerized and watched the hurricane’s track as it got closer and closer to the Mississippi Coast and New Orleans.

The storm moved her. She felt an immediate connection with her fans in the South. Then and there, she finished a drawing she’d started in the ’80s. It was her image of Hurricane Katrina. She had never shared it with anyone until the concert Wednesday.

I was going to take a picture to share, but I decided the memory was more important than the photograph.

Then, she played a song about New Orleans she had recorded in 2010 and stored away in what she called her “Gothic box of lost songs.”

The crowd got teary-eyed and watched as Stevie sang about Mardi Gras, balconies, beads and daiquiris.

As she sang, I was reminded of my life-changing Katrina experience, when my junior and senior English teacher told a class of scared, confused juniors that things were going to be OK after the hurricane ravaged Hancock County.

Remember, Kay Lovelace Palombo told us, home is going to be fine because the birds have returned to the trees and they are chirping. It was at that moment I knew things were going to be OK.

And when Stevie was singing Wednesday, that feeling came back again.