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.