Saturday, June 22, 2024

Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks delivered 37 songs in brilliant succession June 21, 2024

Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks conquer Soldier Field in crowd-pleasing twin bill

The rock legends delivered their greatest hits and more in a four-hour summer night celebration.

By  Selena Fragassi
Photos: Ashlee Rezin

Four hours was barely enough time for the Two Icons, One Night tour at on Friday night at Soldier Field. Commencing at 7:15 p.m. and wrapping at 11:25 p.m., the catalog-busting doubleheader from Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks delivered 37 songs in brilliant succession, but still left fans wanting more.

It’s greedy to even say. The two legends are an incredible 75 and 76 years old, respectively, and the fact they are still performing at this level is a gift. Nicks just returned to the stage after an illness that sidelined her gigs in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the past week and kept apologizing for being hoarse and “not her best” (she could’ve fooled us). Joel kept using throat spray and had his own disclaimers for not being able to hit the high notes in “An Innocent Man” (no one seemed to mind).

Such limitations aside, both performers gave it their all amid a winding summer stadium trek that also marked their first time sharing a stage in our city. The pinnacle came as they joined together to duet on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” Nicks’s 1981 collaboration with the late Tom Petty.

Even while being able to hear “Gold Dust Woman” on the same night as “We Didn’t Start The Fire” was itself a total rock and roll fantasy, it still was a mere tease of the voluminous songbooks from two music icons who have been performing a collective 118 years.

“If it seems like I’m rushed tonight, I am,” Nicks shared as she opened the festivities, donning her iconic black velvet, witchy ensemble in the near 90-degree heat, and explaining she had to curtail her typically juicy storytelling between songs. She still managed a few gems, like recalling working with Petty, and the tale of hearing Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” on the radio years ago and desiring to cover it. Nicks did so on this night, using the track’s political overtones to pivot to an endorsement to vote, lamenting she didn’t do so until she was 70 years old.

The 14-song set was almost identical to her headlining date at United Center last June, with the addition of “Leather and Lace” as her gifted vocal coach Steve Real filled in for Don Henley’s parts. But something felt heavier on this night, in the wake of her recent interview with Mojo in which she declared there’s “no chance of putting Fleetwood Mac back together in any way.”

There was a new immediacy to hearing “Rhiannon” and “Dreams” and of course “Landslide.” The latter was flanked by a slideshow of throwback images of Nicks and the late Christine McVie. As their baby faces took over the screens, the lyrical line “even children get older” took on more meaning and became a cornerstone of the entire night. It was hard not to reflect on time passed, how much has changed, and yet how much this music and coming-of-age songs still have a hold on us.

As Billy Joel reigned in the second half of the night, that sentiment carried over. It hit a fever pitch on “Piano Man,” as Joel let the audience take over the last verse. It soon morphed into a spirited acapella singalong, thousands of camera lights held high in the air, as the capacity crowd begged him to “sing us a song tonight.”

Nostalgia waved over the performer during moments like these in the 23-song set delivered from a bare-bones stage. After serenading the crowd with a snippet of “My Kind of Town,” he thanked everyone for “making me a lucky man … I had no idea I’d still be doing this at 75.”

He also recalled a time when he could do flips off the piano, admitting, “I’m a little too long in the tooth now.” And he tore through some of his most gilded works, sticking heavily to cuts from 1977’s “The Stranger,” 1978’s “52nd Street” and 1980’s “Glass Houses.”

Other standouts included the opener “My Life,” in which Joel showed his never-wavering dexterity on the keys, as well as a barbershop rendition of “The Longest Time” featuring four of his multi-talented bandmates, and a rousing edition of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” with Joel on guitar.

Unexpected moments included a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” foreshadowing that band’s impending takeover of Soldier Field, and several of Joel’s eight-piece backing ensemble getting moments to shine. Among them was Gary, Indiana, native Crystal Taliefero aceing Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High,” and Mike DelGuidice offering an unreal operatic turn with Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.”

Friday night was an incredibly special moment to see Joel live — even if the venue was a big change from his home-away-from-home at Wrigley Field. The gig falls smack dab in his long-running residency at Madison Square Garden and just ahead of his 150th and final show at the legendary New York venue on July 25.

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