If Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks seem like an odd combination, well they are. He’s a steely, populist New Yorker, while she’s a dramatic hippie witch from Phoenix. And yet, the pair delivered a delightful and nostalgic evening Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, even if they took two quite different approaches.
Nicks amped up the moody atmosphere for her set, a blend of her solo hits and some of the songs she wrote for Fleetwood Mac, and wore a series of her famous shawls. Early on, she told the crowd one of her backup singers tested positive for COVID that morning and Nicks’ vocal coach was filling in. Nicks said it would sound a little different and it did, particularly during “Edge of Seventeen” and “Landslide.” A bit distracting, but not enough to be a game changer.
As for Nicks, she sounded terrific. Now 75, she twirls slower than she used to, but she can still sing. Whether she was belting out “Stand Back” or bringing the audience in with “Dreams,” Nicks nailed it.
Her longtime guitarist Waddy Wachtel — a session musician who has worked with everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Dolly Parton — also shined. He extended the instrumental breaks in several numbers, most notably “Gold Dust Woman,” an already dramatic song he transformed into a true epic.
Nicks also covered two very distinctive songs — Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Free Fallin” — and somehow made them her own. True magic.
Four songs into her set, Nicks played her debut solo single “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” with Joel popping out to sing Petty’s part. He did a decent job and later in his own set offered a surprisingly awesome Mick Jagger impersonation (both singing- and dancing-wise) during a snippet of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”
Joel takes an old-fashioned and showbizzy approach to performing live, complete with massive hooks and canned comic lines he’s used hundreds of times. For example, he took the stage to the end score from the 1984 Robert Redford sports film “The Natural,” written by Randy Newman channeling Aaron Copland.
The 75-year-old wasn’t afraid to pump up his old hits like “Only the Good Die Young” and “New York State of Mind” into true stadium rockers. Crucially, though, he didn’t significantly alter any arrangements, he just made them bigger and bolder.
As such, the set list was packed with Joel’s many hits, the ones he’s been playing for decades now. The crowd greeted each one like an old friend, from “My Life” and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man.” (Joel retired from recording pop/rock albums with 1993’s “River of Dreams.”)
The furthest Joel strayed was a pair of album cuts early in his set, “Summer, Highland Falls” and “Zanzibar.” Of the latter, Joel noted it “gets played on TikTok, whatever the hell that is.” Joel sure knows how to put on a show.
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