MUSIC REVIEW: Two rock-radioers with their differences intact

The “Heart & Soul” tour, a pairing of Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks, is pure nostalgia, a valentine for the middle-aged and what they listened to from 1976 to 1978. Not a judgment, just a fact. But the really outmoded part about the concert is that the link between them is the radio.

Remember the radio? We submitted to it completely. It made the connections for us. Besides Los Angeles, teased blond hair and a tremendous talent for the exaggerated courtly stage bow, what Mr. Stewart and Ms. Nicks really have in common is that they are singer-songwriters, articulating consciousness through words and melody, and they are fundamentally different at that job.

Ms. Nicks, 62, who performed first at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, is the goddess of indirection. “Do you know what this is?” she sang in “Love Is.” “No I don’t/but whatever it is/it’s very powerful.” This could be her organizing principle. The referents of her lyrics flicker in and out; she suddenly omits the subject of a sentence, asks a rhetorical question or moves from first to third person without warning. Most pop songwriters don’t do this anymore. But Ms. Nicks is a woman who can put on a black shawl, raise her arms and spin, and the audience roars. Whatever that is, it’s very powerful.

Wednesday’s set was a tight group of greatest hits, so there was “Edge of Seventeen”: “Just like the white winged dove/sings a song, sounds like she’s singing.” And “Sorcerer”: “All around black ink darkness/and who found the lady from the mountains?” Who or what is like the dove? Who did find the lady? Essentially it’s you: the listener and her own experiences fill the gap between what is to be understood and what is not.

Ms. Nicks’s voice narrowed a long time ago, forcing her to write melodic detours away from the upper register, but her sound and phrasing remain the same. She drones and under-enunciates, the better to be misunderstood, and with several band members who have been a constant for decades — the guitarist Waddy Wachtel and the percussionist Lenny Castro — she fitted the songs to the audience’s memory.

People forget that Mr. Stewart, now 66, is a songwriter: he’s been privileging people’s material for so long and so effectively — not just the last decade of his Great American Songbook albums, but also his previous covers of the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Tim Hardin, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and others. Let’s treat it all as one project. He seems to.

As opposed to Ms. Nicks, there’s usually a straight-forward narrative in Mr. Stewart’s songs and the ones he chooses to cover; there’s also very little wondering or regret. As for love, he hungers, consumes, dispatches. Sometimes he fails: oh, well. (He’s good at cheery leave-takings: “Maggie Mae,” “Forever Young.”) He sees no crystal visions.

Mr. Stewart’s voice is pretty damaged, too, sometimes dropping beneath the line of audibility as his longer set wore on, swerving away from high notes and turning to a wheeze. But of course he’s had a rough voice forever, and the whole point of Rod Stewart is finessing a light engagement with one’s own material. In a succession of bright raw-silk jackets, he swiveled and high-stepped just enough to convey that he was having an all-right time, while his band and production provided the rest: a rugged rhythm section, tall female soloists in red dresses (on trumpet, tenor saxophone and fiddle), and a stage like an enormous mid-’60s television show set, clean and beautifully lit.

The stars performed two songs together, unexcitingly, during Mr. Stewart’s set — his “Young Turks,” her “Leather and Lace.” But whereas Ms. Nicks remained her own entity, Mr. Stewart traced his enthusiasms to and connections for what came before and around him. He sang songs by Sam Cooke and Chuck Berry and Hardin and Mr. Waits, and repped once again for the Celtic Football Club, as he’s been doing since the early ’70s. It’s unclear who’s heart and who’s soul. But it is clear who’s an idol and who’s a fan.

The “Heart & Soul” tour continues on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago and on Sunday at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit; rodstewart.com. This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

Ben Ratliff / New York Times / Saturday, April 9, 2011

For What It’s Worth (2022)

LIVE IN CONCERT (2023)

Billy Joel and Stevie NicksStevie Nicks

March 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Los Angeles, CA
SoFi Stadium

March 15, 2023
Seattle, WA
Climate Pledge Arena

March 18, 2023
Las Vegas, NV
T-Mobile Arena

March 23, 2023
San Francisco, CA
Chase Center

March 26, 2023
Sacramento, CA
Golden 1 Center

March 30, 2023
Oklahoma, OK
Paycom Center

April 2, 2023
New Orleans, LA
Smoothie King Center

April 5, 2023
Birmingham, AL
Legacy Arena at the BJCC

April 8, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Arlington, TX
AT&T Stadium

May 12, 2023
Raleigh, NC
PNC Arena

May 16, 2023
Knoxville, TN
Thompson-Boling Arena

May 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Nashville, TN
Nissan Stadium

May 22, 2023
Atlanta, GA
State Farm Arena

May 25, 2023
Orlando, FL
Amway Center

June 16, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Philadelphia, PA
Lincoln Financial Field

June 20, 2023
Toronto, ON
Scotiabank Arena

June 23, 2023
Chicago, IL
United Center

Jun 27, 2023
Louisville, KY
KFC Yum! Center

August 5, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Columbus, OH
Ohio Stadium

August 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Kansas City, MO
Arrowhead Stadium

September 23, 2023
Foxborough, MA
Gillette Stadium

October 7, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Baltimore, MD 
M&T Bank Stadium

November 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Minneapolis, MN
U.S. Bank Stadium

Two Icons One Night presented by Live Nation

2022 Tour

Stevie Nicks

Jazz Aspen Snowmass
Snowmass, CO
Labor Day 2022

Ravinia Festival
Highland Park, IL
September 8, 2022
September 10, 2022

Pine Knob Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI
September 13, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sea Hear Now Festival
Asbury, NJ
September 17, 2022

Xfinity Center
Mansfield, MA
September 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Maine Savings Amphitheatre
Bangor, ME
September 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sound on Sound Festival
Bridgeport, CT
September 24-25, 2022

Ohana Festival
Dana Point, CA
September 30, 2022

Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, CA
October 3, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

POSTPONED
Ak-Chin Pavilion

Phoenix, AZ
October 6, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

POSTPONED
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The Woodlands, TX
October 9, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Alpharetta, GA
October 12, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ascend Amphitheater
Nashville, TN
October 16, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Credit One Stadium
Charleston, SC
October 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

PNC Music Pavilion
Charlotte, NC
October 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Tampa, FL
October 25, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre
West Palm Beach, FL
October 28, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Orion Amphitheatre
Huntsville, AL
October 31, 2022

RESCHEDULED SHOWS

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The Woodlands, TX
November 2, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ak-Chin Pavilion
Phoenix, AZ
November 5, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

 

Edge of Midnight (2020)

Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (2017)

New Release

Stevie Nicks, Stand Back 1981-2017, compilation

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