Billy Joel stands close to alone. Fifty years to the week after he released the album "Piano Man" — featuring that singalong ode to loneliness — he was ambitiously playing at U.S. Bank Stadium even though he hasn't released an album of new songs in 30 years. What other solo artist would attempt that?
Stevie Nicks stands close to alone, too. One year to the month after the death of her bestie Christine McVie, she opened for Joel, as essentially the last singer standing from Fleetwood Mac. (Remember the band unceremoniously dismissed Lindsey Buckingham in 2018, and he's scaled back to performing in theaters.)
Joel and Nicks seem like an odd pairing — the pugnacious New Yorker and the mystical California hippie. Yet, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers have joined forces this year for the eight-city Two Icons, One Night Tour, which falls between their separate arena gigs.
The New York/California ticket got the overwhelming approval Friday night of maybe 50,000 multigenerational voters at the packed Vikings stadium (according to our applause poll).
With living-in-the-past Joel, the fans indicated that "we love you just the way you were." Of the 25 or so selections his group offered, all but two were from 1982 or earlier. And not all were hits, as he included deep tracks "Summer, Highland Falls" for "all you manic depressives" and "Zanzibar" with its snazzy jazzy Carl Fischer trumpet solo.
Joel was, as always, full of shtick, attitude and, now, dad jokes. He did his dad-dance impression of Mick Jagger by doing a taste of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up," and he had his guitarist Mike DelGuidice detour into a gratuitous slab of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," as well as Puccini's aria "Nessun Dorma." Like Joel's catalog, his two-hour set was a remarkable rangy musical melting pot.
Joel remembered playing at the Marigold Ballroom "in the boondocks" (Actually, it was downtown Minneapolis, where the Hyatt Regency stands.), and he asked for prayers so he could still hit his high notes on "An Innocent Man" (He did.).
Yes, he was in good voice at age 74, save for control issues on a couple of tunes. He turned "The Longest Time" and the doo-wop styled "River of Dreams" into wonderful group vocal showcases. The piano man gave each of his fun-loving musicians time in the spotlight, which doesn't typically happen at stadium shows. Moreover, the sound for Joel's highly musical set was better than usual at the football palace. Too bad his crew couldn't get the live video cameras to work on the opening "My Life."
Nicks, who in 2016 toured with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders (same era, different vibe), delivered a greatest-hits set this time, unlike her arena trek seven years ago that featured plenty of deep tracks. As the first act to hit the stage Friday, Nicks knew how to get the party started segueing into "Dreams," the Fleetwood Mac song that was resurrected via TikTok in 2020, for her second number.
She pulled out her trump card on the fourth selection, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," as Joel sauntered out to sing the part originally done by Tom Petty on Nicks' debut solo single in 1981.
The duet may not have been as spirited as when Nicks pulled it off with Hynde seven years ago in St. Paul, but it certainly invigorated the late-arriving Minneapolis crowd. Afterward, Nicks explained that she's done the song live with Petty, Harry Styles and others, but Joel "scares me every time." It was a little unclear if she meant that in a good way.
There was no question that Nicks, 75, was in terrific voice, that seductive husky siren of hers, though it was hard to fully appreciate her 90-minute performance in the echo chamber that is the Vikings stadium. Moreover, the live video — that was essential in the massive coliseum with a petite performer who eschewed her usual signature dizzying dancing — was marred by all kinds of tacky patterns (colorful dots, gold bubbles, etc.) over her image.
Waddy Wachtel's guitar consistently cut through, whether the mysterious and ultimately noisy slashing on "Gold Dust Woman," one of Nicks' highlights, or the edgy riffing on "Edge of Seventeen" (which also featured a funky organ passage by the Twin Cities' own Ricky Peterson).
Nicks did not mention Prince even though she played their funky 1983 collaboration "Stand Back." As she always does in the Twin Cities, she gave a shoutout to "my one and only husband," Kim Anderson, her ex- who was in the audience and to whom she dedicated "Wild Heart."
Despite a few glitches, Joel and Nicks reinforced what the music business long ago learned: Classic rock knows no expiration date.