A NOTEWORTHY Review, By Stephanie Ortiz
Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks in Philly again–what a throwback to 40 years ago when we had our concerts and sporting events at the Spectrum!
We listened to our music on boom boxes. The bigger, the better. We watched our favorite artists on MTV and remember our parents listening to records and cassette tapes just as much as we did.
And since I personally didn’t see the classic rock icons Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks bring Lincoln Financial Field to life on Friday, June 16, 2023, I talked to Michele Davis to get her perspective from the nosebleed section (heck, it was a free ticket).
And since this concert got us all reminiscing, we’re returning to the Spectrum in 1982-83, the same year Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks performed there, and the Sixers won the NBA World Championship.
Ready to go back 40 years ago? Come with me.
1982-1983, The Spectrum
THOUGH DEMOLISHED IN 2011, WE STILL HAVE THIS SEAT. IMAGINE, JULIUS ERVING MAY HAVE SAT HERE.
Of course, the Sixers didn’t win the title in the Spectrum, they won it in LA, but the Spectrum saw many a great basketball game played.
It also saw Billy Joel perform “The Nylon Curtain” on November 20, 1982, and Stevie Nick’s “Wild Heart” tour on June 27, 1983.
I never paired the two legendary singers in my mind until this current “Two Icons: One Night” tour, and then it hit me.
I got into Stevie Nicks much later in life, sometime in my twenties, when I loved Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits, unlike Billy Joel, with whom I had a much longer history.
As a kid, I wasn’t much of a music buff, but my Dad’s friend co-founded Electric Factory Concerts, sent us records, and kept us abreast of the best music acts coming to town.
My Mom was in love with Barry Manilow. I’ll never forget how excited she and her friends were to attend his concert when he came to the Spectrum in 1978.
SPEAKING OF THE OLDIES, NOTHING LIKE ADDING AN OLD BARRY MANILOW RECORD INTO THE MIX. HE’LL BE PERFORMING IN READING ON AUGUST 18TH, 2023.
But my Dad’s friend told her, “If you like Barry, you’ll love Billy Joel. Wait ‘til you see what this guy can do with a piano.”
And he sent us our first Billy Joel album, “An Innocent Man.” I played it on the record player over and over.
Then I was old enough to attend my first concert–I got to see what this Billy Joel was all about.
And, because of my Dad’s friend, I got to meet Billy Joel before the concert.
Only an ever more critical handshake overshadowed mine.
Julius Erving loved Billy Joel, too, and he was lucky enough to have the night off–the Sixers played a home game the night before, beating the Milwaukee Bucks.
The clean-up crew came in to transform the Spectrum into a concert venue after the game when the crowds had cleared out.
The next night, with all the seats filled, the audience eagerly awaited Billy Joel.
Only he had one more stop to make.
Julius Erving (who on game nights was either in the locker room or center court) was hanging out in the wives’ lounge, ready to be a spectator in the building where he knew how to bring down the house.
Mr. Erving looked so dapper like he was about to go on stage.
And Billy Joel walked in with his sports jacket and white sneakers like he was going to a basketball game.
Julius Erving stood up, and the two men shook hands.
They needed no introduction. Mr. Erving looked down a staggering distance, and Billy looked up, so far up at Mr. Erving.
They couldn’t say much more than a typical “stranger” would have said upon meeting one of them.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of yours.” And, “I could never do what you do.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Erving could have crushed Billy Joel’s hand if they hadn’t been in such awe of one another.
I don’t remember anything more about that concert, with a moment like that, how could I?
Six months later, on May 31, 1983, Dr. J had his moment to take center stage when the Philadelphia 76ers beat the LA Lakers in the NBA playoffs.
The city of brotherly love celebrated with a ticker-tape parade down Broad Street and City Hall–Dr. J was in the main float.
And then, on June 27, 1983, Stevie Nicks came to Philly on her “Wild Heart” tour.
Still reeling from the win and not much of a Stevie Nicks fan at the time, I didn’t go to that concert, but luckily it’s 2023 now, and concertarchives.org recounted all the details of the shows that the artists performed within seven months of one another back in 1982-83.
If my math’s correct, nine of the songs Billy Joel performed last Friday night were from his 1982 playlist, and Stevie Nicks played six songs from her 1983 playlist.
And Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks had something else in common: Billy Joel’s drummer. Liberty DeVitto, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the best thing that ever happened to Billy Joel,” played drums for both concerts.
June 16, 2023, Lincoln Financial Field
Stevie Nicks and Billy Joel singing together in concert surprised Michele and transported her back to her childhood and fond memories of her Mom and Dad.
Michele’s a backup singer for both 33-1/3 LIVE’s Killer Queen Experience and Tony Mecca (yes, she’s often transported through music to the good old days of rock and roll), but at Friday night’s concert, even she couldn’t help but just sit in her seat and smile.
“I could see my little self in the Living Room. That feeling came over, and I was a little kid again.” Hearing her Dad once more listen to records in the basement. He loved all kinds of music–anything that brought him joy. And Stevie, her Dad, loved her, too.
From her experience as a singer, she can’t believe Billy Joel’s 74 and Stevie Nicks is 75 years old, but they sound fantastic, as if their voices haven’t aged. She said, “I’ll be 48 this year, and I get exhausted after singing, and I’m not even a lead singer.”
“It’s so refreshing to see them going strong.”
A stand-out was when he sang “An Innocent Man” and explained that he wrote it when he was younger and could hit the high notes, but he wasn’t sure what to expect that night.
Then he crushed the high notes every single time. “Unreal,” Michele said. “I know the toll years of touring can take on your voice, and he hasn’t lost a beat.”
Also, she never before saw him live. She wasn’t sure what to expect of his “show,”–which is mainly him at the piano, and the music speaks for itself. There are no frills or extras, a traditional stage set up with the band in the back, just the music and an accompanying short story on occasion—a true musician.
Same thing with Stevie. Her sister-in-law noted that nowadays Stevie wears “sensible” shoes on stage, but still, she barely moved around except to do some gypsy twirls with her scarves. It was still a spectacular performance.
She did her tribute to Tom Petty with “Free Fallin'” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” and Billy Joel came out in a mask over his eyes to join her for that, and Christine McVie and their Fleetwood Mac songs: “Dreams,” “Gypsy,” and” Gold Dust Woman.”
With two icons performing together like that, the biggest question is, “Who exactly is opening for who?”
She said you often need to remember how talented the backup is. The base singer had a fantastic voice, and another backup singer played a sax, alternated percussion, and sang a solo. She could have had a show all to herself.
In her nosebleed section, she said, “I was sitting up in heaven, but because of their no-frills performance, you felt you were hanging out with them- such an intimate feel even though they were in this big stadium”.
Lincoln Financial Field is no Spectrum.
It’s a fantastic moment, though, when music can transport us to another time and place forty years ago and feel so close and personal that we believe the singers are there only for us, even if we are in the nosebleed section.
It’s how concerts used to be, just artists mesmerizing us, impressing even Dr. J.
When the past meets the present, there’s no telling what legends we might find.
We certainly have more significant and inspired pasts today, thanks to the impact from the greats like Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks and Julius Erving.
Two Icons, One Night! Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks and a Philly Legend Dr. J fix;
A crowd-pleasing Slam Dunk, Philly-style!
Check out Michele’s bands here: