Stevie Nicks slumped against a microphone stand, supporting himself on both gloved hands and bowing his head for 10 or 12 seconds as the final chords of “Landslide” echoed through Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium on Friday night.
Wrapping up her set on the opening date of a joint mini-tour with Billy Joel, the singer and goth-hippie icon had just performed her signature acoustic ballad in front of a huge video screen displaying photos of her with her bandmate. by Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie. that she died in November. We saw Stevie and Christine harmonize; we saw them holding hands; We saw them whisper in each other’s ears, share some joke that was made funnier by their secrecy. Now, Nicks, onstage for the first time since McVie’s death, looked up, his eyes seeming to sparkle under the stadium lights.
“There really isn’t much to say,” he told the tens of thousands in the crowd. “We just pretend that she’s still here, that’s how I’m trying to deal with it.”
Finding new emotional purpose in well-worn material, in lines like the ones in “Landslide” about growing old after you’ve built your life around someone, is probably the most you can ask of a veteran rock star on the road for the umpteenth time. It’s a way of keeping classical music alive, even (or especially) when it hurts; it shows that there is still use in the old songs, not only for the audience but also for the artist.
There are less noble reasons to tour, of course, some of which became apparent on Friday. You might want to show off a voice, like Nicks’s, that still sounds great at 74: low and smoky, with an imperiousness that can suddenly fade to reveal sheer necessity. You might want to do some dad jokes, like Joel, 73, did about his lack of dancing skills, right before his band played the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” and he flailed around for a minute like an adult. -aerobics Mick Jagger.
And you might want to make some money, as both stars will no doubt be doing so on a leisurely run scheduled to land once a month or so through November. (Main-floor seats for the duo’s upcoming concert, in Arlington, Texas, are available for $2,250 each.)
But for those who watch, a moment like Nicks’ moving “Landslide,” its reminder that honesty and finesse can happen in the same place at the same time, is the reason to show up for an operation like this.
Joel and Nicks make an odd combination? He is Mr. New York, she is an avatar of West Coast fashion; her songs hark back to the orderly structures of the Brill Building, hers to the haunted romance of Welsh folklore. However, each began racking up radio hits around the same time, in the mid-1970s: Two years after Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” was named Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, Joel won the same. award with “52nd Street.”
More to the point, both singers survived the FM era to endure well into the MTV era, a testament to the career-building power of radio, sure, but also to their understanding of the emerging value of a visual brand. In SoFi, Joel still scrunched up his bulldog face while Nicks continued to twirl in his shimmering shawl.
Also, how much sense does a joint boomer bill have to make? (Remember that Nicks toured a decade ago with Rod Stewart, of all people.) As Joel told The Times in an interview last week, McVie was just one casualty of the war of attrition that time is waging against his generation. “Dropping Like Flies” was his joking title for the next possible tour. That would really only sharpen the “catch ’em while you can” tone embedded in “Two Icons: One Night,” as the current show is called.
Here they joined forces for a pair of unlikely duets: their “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” in which Joel sang the part made famous by the late Tom Petty; and their “And So It Goes,” for which they stood on opposite ends of Joel’s grand piano. Neither performance convinced you that they had finally found their musical soulmates; However, both performances made you happy to see two artists getting closer to each other.
Aside from “Landslide,” highlights of Nicks’ set included a brilliant “Sara,” which online registrars say she hadn’t played solo for a decade and a half, and a juicy version of “If Everyone Falls” that It took you to think about the amount of modern pop music Nicks was working on between the years 1975 and 1983. (Not “The Wild Heart,” not Miley Cyrus; not “Bella Donna,” not Lana Del Rey.)
Joel did that too with “Just the Way You Are,” which now sounds like a model for the likes of the Weeknd and Bon Iver and their ideas about hidden obsessions with shiny surfaces. For the most part, though, he seemed less interested in shedding new light on his music than showing off its durability: Before “An Innocent Man,” he said he was concerned with hitting the song’s high notes, then nailed every single one. of them. he? — with precision to spare.
His hits were many and varied, from “My Life” and “Movin’ Out” and “Allentown” to “Only the Good Die Young” and “The River of Dreams” and the inevitable “Piano Man.” For his encore, Joel got up from behind his piano and grabbed a microphone on a stand to sing “Uptown Girl” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” while his band played guitars. The songs argued that things never change, another fantasy to believe in even when you know better.