Recap: Billy Joel, Stevie Nick’s kick-off tour at SoFi Stadium

Stevie Nicks slumped against a mic stand, braced himself on both glittering gloved hands and bowed his head for 10 or 12 seconds as the final chords of “Landslide” rang out through Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium on Friday night.

The goth-hippie singer and icon had wrapped up her set on the opening date of a mini-tour with Billy Joel, and had just performed her signature acoustic ballad in front of a giant video screen showing photos of her with Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie. who died in November. We saw how Stevie and Christine harmonized; we saw them holding hands; we saw them whisper in each other’s ears and share a joke made only funnier by its secrecy. Now Nicks raised her head for the first time on stage since McVie’s death, her eyes seeming to gleam under the stadium lights.

“There really isn’t much to say,” she told the tens of thousands in the crowd. “We’re just pretending she’s still here — that’s how I try to deal with it.”

Finding new emotional meaning in well-worn material — lines like those in “Landslide” about growing older after building your life around someone — is probably the best thing you can ask of a veteran rock star turning x- th time on the road. It’s a way of keeping classical music alive, even (or especially) when it hurts; it shows that the old songs still have a use, not only for the audience but also for the artist.

There are, of course, less noble reasons for touring, some of which showed up on Friday. Maybe, like Nicks, you want to show off a voice that still sounds great at 74 – deep and smoky, with an imperiousness that can suddenly melt away to reveal pure desire. You might want to join 73-year-old Joel in cracking a few dad jokes about his lack of dance skills just before his band intoned the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” and he waved his hand like adult aerobics Mick Jagger for a minute.

And you might want to make some cash, as both stars will surely be on a leisurely run that will land about once a month through November. (Primo Floor Seats for the duo’s next concert in Arlington, Texas are available for $2,250 each.)

But for those watching, a moment like Nick’s moving “Landslide” – his reminder that honesty and finesse can happen in the same place at the same time – is reason enough to show up for an operation like this.

Enter Billy Joel.

(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Are Joel and Nicks an odd combination? He’s Mr. New York, she’s an avatar of West Coast cool; His songs look back to the orderly structures of the Brill Building, hers to the haunted romance of Welsh folklore. But both began collecting radio hits around the same time, in the mid-1970s: two years after Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, Joel’s “52nd Street” won the same award.

More importantly, both singers have survived the FM era to last well into the MTV era – a testament to the career-enhancing power of radio, sure, but also to their understanding of the emerging value of a visual brand. At SoFi, Joel was still grimacing at his bulldog while Nicks continued to twirl in her glittery scarf.

Besides, how much sense does a joint Bill of Boomers have to make anyway? (Recall that a decade ago Nicks was touring with Rod Stewart of all people.) As Joel said in an interview with The Times last week, McVie was just a victim of the war of attrition that time was waging on 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 pitch embedded in “Two Icons – One Night,” as the current show is called.

Here they teamed up for two unlikely duets: their “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” in which Joel sang the role made famous by the late Tom Petty; and his “And So It Goes,” for which they lined up on opposite ends of Joel’s wing. Neither performance convinced them that they had finally found their musical soulmates; However, both performances made me happy to see two artists reaching out to each other.

Stevie Nicks stands in black and holds a microphone.

Enter Stevie Nicks.

(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Aside from “Landslide,” highlights from Nicks’ set included a lustrous “Sara,” which online record holders say she hadn’t performed solo in a decade and a half, and a juicy version of “If Everyone Falls,” which Sie to reflect on how much modern pop music Nicks created between 1975 and 1983. (No “The Wild Heart,” no Miley Cyrus; no “Bella Donna,” no Lana Del Rey.)

Joel did the same with “Just the Way You Are,” which now sounds like a blueprint for guys like The Weeknd and Bon Iver and their ideas about the obsessions that hide behind shimmering surfaces. Most of the time, however, he seemed less interested in shedding new light on his music than in demonstrating its permanence: Before “An Innocent Man,” he said he worried about hitting the song’s high notes, and then hit everyone – wouldn’t you know that? It? – to spare with precision.

His hits were numerous 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 rose from behind his piano and grabbed a mic on a stand to belt out “Uptown Girl” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” while his band cranked up the guitars. The songs argued that things never change – another fantasy to believe in, even if you know better.

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