A stadium-sized singalong with Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks at The Linc
Two songwriting legends gave stellar performances in Philly on Friday, June 16, 2023.
Photo: nikkejones85 on Instagram
By Maureen Walsh and John Vettese
It’s easy to understand why a double-header of pop songwriting icons Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks drew a capacity crowd to Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night. Both artists have been active since the late 60s; both are behind an array of hit songs stretching into the 90s, and their popularity extends to present day, with a strong cross-generational appeal. The Philadelphia crowd was made up of life-long fans who probably first heard both artists on WIOQ 40 years ago; younger fans experiencing Nicks and Joel for the first time; and the crossover of parents in collective rapture with their children. And for the performers’ part, both artists sounded stellar, were backed by exemplary bands, played a robust mix of hits and deep cuts, and put their lively personalities on full display.
Nicks opened her set with “Outside the Rain” — appropriate given the thunderstorm forecast and tornado warnings we spent all day monitoring on our Accuweather apps — followed by its sister song “Dreams.” The crowd was pleasantly surprised by the Fleetwood Mac classic turned Tik Tok sensation appearing so early in the set, but that was not the only surprise. We soon were regaled with tourmate Billy Joel’s presence on “Stop Dragging My Heart Around;” he took the stage in a party mask, singing Tom Petty’s verse before revealing his face for the chorus. Nicks’ set continued with even more unexpected moments. There were deep cuts such as “If Anyone Falls,” and Rock A Little‘s “I Sing For the Things,” a song Nicks is playing live for the first time on this tour. She also sang a few covers, the highlight being a heartfelt and powerful cover “Free Fallin'” looking up to the sky and her old friend Petty towards the end.
Nicks couldn’t leave out the hits, of course. “Landslide,” was gorgeous, “Edge of Seventeen,” was explosive with smoking solos courtesy of longtime guitarist Waddy Wachtel. “Stand Back,” was taken to the stratosphere thanks to backing vocals by Sharon Celani and Marilyn Martin, and an epic jam on “Gold Dust Woman” was a set centerpiece, with intentionally disorienting camerawork on the big screens adding to the song’s psychedelic feeling.
Nicks’ singing was on another level and her banter was fun and bubbly, talking issues with men and offering life lessons about staying true to yourself. She donned a different shawl for nearly every song, including the very one she wore on the back cover of her solo debut Bella Donna. It was a memorable set of music and her and her band left the crowd wanting more even after her encore.
Billy Joel pays tribute to Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks enchants at co-headlining concert
As with recent performances, Nicks took the stage at sunset for about an hour and 45 minutes and Joel closed the night with two hours of radio fodder and fan favorites (hi, “Captain Jack”).
Though no one expects – or wants – any drastic deviations from their adroitly crafted setlists, a couple of spotlight moments emerged.
Joel, 74, offered Tom Petty-esque vocals to counter Nicks, 75, on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (it wasn’t the tidiest of duets as Joel missed his cue to start singing and then his microphone blanked for several seconds). And during Joel’s percussive “River of Dreams,” he and his exemplary band swung into Tina Turner's “River Deep, Mountain High,” with the multifaceted Crystal Taliefero belting and brass masters Mark Rivera and Carl Fischer coating the tribute with spiky horns.
Stevie Nicks conjures spirits, expels emotions
Nicks, looking resplendent in layers of black, her crimped blond hair flowing halfway down her back, offered her comforting warble on both solo and Fleetwood Mac treasures.
The overlooked “If Anyone Falls” paired with “Gypsy,” allowing Nicks’ two backup singers to add plushness to the choruses.
Nicks’ songs are as layered as her chiffon skirts, their melody and meaning requiring hours of dissection. The poetry in the title tracks of her early solo releases, “Bella Donna” (1981) and “The Wild Heart” (1983), coupled with the galloping beat powering “Stand Back” and urgent guitar riffing in “Edge of Seventeen” reminded of Nicks’ unique song styling.
Her hand-fluttering bows and dramatic dips, too, are all distinctively Stevie.
Nicks is also always expelling emotion, whether playing air drums and conjuring the spirits during the ominously thumping “Gold Dust Woman” or quietly singing the pensive rumination on aging, “Landslide.” During that final song, photos of Nicks and her beloved bandmate, the late Christine McVie, scrolled one of the three screens looming above the stage, making an already wistful moment heartbreaking.
Nicks felt it, too, as she stammered at song’s end, “Can’t speak,” and blew the crowd a kiss before smiling and stating a simple, “Thank you.”