A stadium-sized singalong with Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks at The Linc - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

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.

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Stevie Nicks
Lincoln Financial Field
  • Outside the Rain
  • Dreams
  • If Anyone Falls
  • Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
  • Fall From Grace
  • For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)
  • Gypsy
  • Wild Heart / Bella Donna
  • Stand Back
  • Free Fallin' (Tom Petty cover)
  • Gold Dust Woman
  • I Sing For the Things
  • Edge Of Seventeen
  • Rhiannon
  • Landslide

“I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news,” Joel said at the top of his performance. “The bad news is I don’t have any new music out. The good news is I’m not going to play any new music.” Yes, the bard of Long Island used this setlist to explore the breadth of his catalog. But he also leaned into his self-deprecating, self-aware, salty-yet-charming brand of humor, a refreshing contrast to his deeply self-serious artistic persona of the 80s and 90s. Joel joked about struggling with the soaring melody of “An Innocent Man” when it released in 1985 — “I was kissing good bye to the high notes in my early 30’s; I didn’t think I’d still be doing this in my 70s” — and then went on to nail it. Standing at the mic for some of the set, instead of sitting at the piano, he joked about his lack of Jagger-esque frontman appeal; a bout of dad dancing to a partial cover of “Start Me Up” showed that, nope, he was not being humble about that one.

Thing is, Joel doesn’t need to be a “frontman” in the classic sense, because his work speaks so strongly for itself. “My Life” into “Movin’ Out” into “The Entertainer” was a ferocious opening run; non-singles like “Vienna” and “Zanzibar,” and less-celebrated singles like “Don’t Ask Me Why” and “Sometimes A Fantasy”  were received just as strongly. Joel put a few moments of the setlist up to an audience vote, an ongoing bit he does, but the results were almost a foregone conclusion; what Philadelphia concertgoer is going to choose “New York State of Mind” over “Captain Jack,” after all? Or “Just The Way You Are” over literally anything else? And the energy when his biggest hits landed was unreal; 70,000 people singing along to “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” and “Uptown Girl” is a massive rush.

Joel set up songs by digging into their genre underpinnings. “The Longest Time” was explained with reflections on his love of streetcorner harmony (which included a short verse of The Five Satins’ “In The Still Of The Night”); while the Latin pop shuffle of “Don’t Ask Me Why” got context when he said it was written after a trip to Spain. He also gave his vastly talented bandmates a lot of space to shine onstage, whether it was the regionally-rooted players like New Jersey’s Chuck Burgi (drums) and Dave Rosenthal (keys), or his longtime collaborators like sax player Mark Rivera (who has been in Joel’s band for 41 years, and led a strong cadre of horn players that brightened up arrangements on “Movin’ Out” in particular).

Some members of even got their own show-stopping moments: guitarist Mike DelGuidice belted Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” a gorgeous bit of opera to lead into “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” while percussionist / saxophonist Crystal Taliefero raised the roof when she sang a high-octane cover of Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” at the mid-song break of “River Of Dreams.”

But the loudest voices were those of the audience whenever Joel circled back to a song we all knew by heart, whether it was “Piano Man” ending the main set, or “You May Be Right” closing the whole night. Coupled with Nicks’ expansive opening performance, Friday night The Linc heard and saw and felt the power of music that has not only defined eras, but found a second life in eras anew, standing the test of time over and again.

Billy Joel | photo by Myrna Suarez | courtesy of the artist

Billy Joel
Lincoln Financial Field
  • Ode To Joy / My Life
  • Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
  • The Entertainer
  • Vienna
  • Zanzibar
  • Start Me Up / An Innocent Man
  • The Longest Time
  • Don't Ask Me Why
  • Captain Jack
  • Allentown
  • Sometimes A Fantasy
  • Only The Good Die Young
  • River of Dreams / River Deep, Mountain High
  • Nessun Dorma / Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
  • Piano Man
  • We Didn't Start The Fire
  • Uptown Girl
  • It's Still Rock and Roll To Me
  • Big Shot
  • You May Be Right / Rock And Roll
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