21 April 2008 by Published in: General musings 12 comments

This is another post that has nothing to do with the Civil War, so for those who only read this blog for historical content, you may want to skip this post.

We saw our second of four old geezer band concerts last night. Billy Joel came to town.

The show last night was fabulous. The old guy is still a consummate entertainer. He joked about his lack of hair and the fact that’s he’s now 58 years old. Given that he has not released a new album of pop music since 1993, his continuing appeal is a testimony to his ongoing popularity. His first album was released in 1971, so he’s been around for nearly 40 years now. Nationwide Arena was sold out–20,000 people on their feet singing and dancing the whole 21 song show.

He opened with “Angry Young Man” from Turnstiles, which has long been one of my favorite songs of his. The second song was 1974’s “The Entertainer” from Streetlife Serenade. He also did “Summer, Highland Falls”, from Turnstiles. There was at least one song from every one of his albums, except for the first one, Cold Spring Harbor.

What particularly impressed me was that instead of using someone else to hit the high notes in “An Innocent Man” like he did the last time we saw him, he hit them himself. And he nailed them. Not bad for an old guy. Not bad at all. He then did “Keeping the Faith”, the final song from 1983’s terrific An Innocent Man album.

He was backed by a very tight and very professional band, featuring the terribly talented Crystal Taliefero on percussion, saxophone, and backing vocals. They did two fun things during the course of the show. He did the gospelly “In the Middle of the Night” from his last pop album, River of Dreams, about mid-set. Midway through the song, the band stopped dead in their tracks for a second, and then the lead guitar player broke into “Hang on Sloopy”, which is one of the Ohio State University sports anthems. The faithful of Buckeye Nation went bonkers. After a chorus of “Sloopy”, the band then shifted right back into “In the Middle of the Night”. Talk about pandering to the crowd.

And then, Billy brought out his guitar tech, nicknamed Chainsaw. Billy announced that Chainsaw was going to do lead vocals on the next song, which was a religious song appropriate for a Sunday night. That religious song was AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”, with Billy on lead guitar. Too funny.

Of the 21 songs played (counting “Highway to Hell”), five of them came from 1977’s The Stranger: the sappy “Just the Way You Are”, which is still his biggest selling single, “Anthony’s Song (Moving Out)”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (always a favorite of mine), “She’s Always a Woman to Me”, and, of course, the crowd favorite, “Only the Good Die Young”. “Scenes” and “Only the Good Die Young” were encores. He performed over half the album. He didn’t do more than two songs from any other album, so I guess that says a lot about The Stranger. The night’s final song was his legendary signature song, “Piano Man”, from the classic 1973 album of the same name. With Billy on piano and harmonica, he let the crowd sing the final chorus–it’s always an amazing thing to hear 20,000 people singing in unison, and he was obviously loving it.

One of the evening’s more interesting numbers was “Zanzibar”, from 52nd Street. It’s an experimental jazz fusion piece, and he did some very cool trading of riffs with one of his horn players, who switched from flugelhorn to trumpet mid-song and played them both extremely well. Nifty stuff that shows off Billy’s still keen piano skills.

There was only one song that he didn’t do that I wanted to hear. Although he did “Allentown” from 1982’s The Nylon Curtain, I hoped he would also do “Goodnight, Saigon,” his wonderful tribute to Vietnam War vets. When we saw him last time, he not only did that song, he brought out a group of actual Vietnam vets to sing the chorus, “And we all went down together,” with him. I’ve long believed that he got “Goodnight Saigon” right, that it is the last musical word on its subject, and that, as a consequence, it’s one of my favorite and most moving songs of all time. Sadly, he didn’t do it this time. I wonder if that isn’t a result of the current war in Iraq.

As he left the stage for the last time, he made a comment that sums him up nicely. “Don’t take no shit from nobody,” he called out. What more needed to be said?

It was a great evening with a consummate showman and a great entertainer. Next up, Elvis Costello and the Impostors warming up for The Police on May 4.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 1:11 pm

    You know to be a Yankee you have good taste in music or maybe we have the same taste, which should frighten us both. Going to see The Boss next Monday night in Greensboro. My first visit with Bruce since January 1985.

  2. Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Does he still close his shows with “Souvenir” as in the old days, or was “Piano Man” the actual final word?

  3. Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Tom,

    Enjoy. I expect a full report.

    Eric

  4. Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Jeffry,

    The final encore was Piano Man.

    Eric

  5. Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 9:31 pm

    YOU ARE GOING TO SEE ELVIS COSTELLO?!

    Sorry for the fangirlish outburst, but I am extremely jealous! E.C. is my favorite musician. I saw him with the Baltimore Symphony back in May 2006. He was amazing.

  6. Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Sarah,

    I am indeed. I’ve never seen him live previously and am looking forward to it a great deal. I’ve seen The Police four times before, including earlier on this tour, and the primary reason why I decided to go again was to get to see Elvis, too.

    Eric

  7. Steve Basic
    Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Eric,

    Sounds like a fabulous show, and am still laughing about the “religious” song he performed. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Glad he played “Summer, Highland Falls” as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the report.

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  8. Russell Bonds
    Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Eric:

    First saw Wm. Joel in the very early 80’s at the Omni–(dropped off out front by my mom and dad–“we’ll pick you up RIGHT HERE at EXACTLY 11 p.m.”)–hey, even Atlantans get in a New York State of Mind from time to time. I bought the hideous long-sleeved t-shirt with the keyboard on the sleeve.

    Glad to hear he still opens with “Angry Young Man” and is playing “Summer Highland Falls.” Another concert favorite of mine is “The Ballad of Billy the Kid”–sounds like it didn’t make the playlist this time.

    I always thought it was cool that Billy Joel was my first concert sans parents, until I learned that my dad’s first concert was Elvis Presley.

    Yrs from ATL—
    Russ

  9. dan
    Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 11:42 pm

    He didn’t sing DownEaster Alexa? Fantastic song, among so many great songs by Billy Joel.

  10. tomrod
    Tue 22nd Apr 2008 at 11:15 am

    I saw Billy Joel in the late 70’s around when “52nd Street” came out. It has to rank as one of the top 3 concerts I’ve been to. He did a wild version of “Big shot” (did he sing that one?) Don’t laugh but my other concerts in my top 3 are The Clash and Joe Jackson.

    Tom

  11. Tue 22nd Apr 2008 at 11:47 am

    Dan,

    Unfortunately, no, he didn’t. And I agree–it is a great song.

    Eric

  12. Tue 22nd Apr 2008 at 11:48 am

    Tom,

    Sure, he did Big Shot. He always does, and it’s still funny.

    I wish I had seen The Clash, especially when they were still angry.

    Eric

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