Billy Joel: Back and Better Than Ever!

This was my very first Billy Joel concert. It was an awesome show. Wait, let me rephrase. It was absolutely the best show EVER. First of all, the Wachovia Center in South Philly holds a whole lot of people. And the place was absolutely packed. It was a veritable sea of Billy Joel fans. There wasn’t an empty chair in sight.

And there wasn’t really a bad seat in the house. I got my ticket the day they went on sale. They went up at 10am, and by 2pm when I went online, there was already only a limited selection left. By the next day, shows were being added left and right. My ticket wasn’t all that expensive, so I wasn’t expecting much. I had side-of-the-stage, tiered seating, and was counting on a pole or a tall person in my wayâÂ?¦and so I was shocked when I was close enough to “see the glare off his head,” as my boyfriend put it. I really think everyone had a great view.

The lights went out and Billy’s piano came sliding up through the stage floor. He started the night off with “Angry Young Man.” The piano revolved throughout the show, so we all got our share of front, side, and back views. He busted out his guitar for a few songs, including “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” He played for over two and a half hours, touching on every hit from “Anthony’s Song” to “The River of Dreams.”

He even played several relics that, according to my Billy Joel tour guide of a boyfriend, he’s hasn’t done in concert in ages, such as “Vienna” and “Stiletto.” Other unexpected tunes included “Zanzibar” and “The Night is Still Young.” Being in Philadelphia, he had to play “Allentown,” and his performance of “Captain Jack” had the crowd going crazy. Let me tell you, this audience really gave testament to the statement “Philly Loves Billy,” as someone’s sign read.

This is his first tour in close to seven years. He’s older now, and balder. But he joked happily about his lack of hair, hanging a cloth over his head to simulate the good old days. He was so upbeat and excited it was like watching a child at a recital – if that child had the list of top hits that Billy does. Since this is my first time seeing him, I can’t compare; but from all accounts, this show featured a pumped, refreshed Billy Joel. He was sober (a definite plus) and he seemedâÂ?¦rejuvenated. It was like he was playing for the very first time. The songs seemed new and exciting, and everyone was having a blast.

Despite one technical glitch (a microphone that only turned on halfway through a song), the show was spectacular, and Billy was dead-on. Shortly after a rousing rendition of “You May Be Right,” he waved goodbye and left the stage. Like anyone believed he would end his show without playing “Piano Man” or “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” Everyone in the audience started cheering, and they pulled out their cell phones, lit the screens, and started waving them – in this millennium; cell phones are the new lighter. As I looked across the looming, darkened stadium, I saw literally thousands of tiny blue screens gently swaying, and it was actually a very cool feeling – kind of like being in space among the stars.

Personally, encores annoy me. I think it’s an overplayed gimmick, but hey, I’ll shut up and let everyone else enjoy his “surprise” comeback. He stared the encore off with “Only the Good Die Young” (a personal favorite) and moved on into the best song in the show – “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” Everyone sang along, and it was, without a doubt, the best few minutes in the whole two-plus hours. While my boyfriend and I cut out before “Piano Man,” the actual last song of the night, I’m sure it was amazing, and I’m positive Billy got a fifteen-minute standing ovation for his efforts.

Given his recent history (car accidents, excessive drinking�), I was impressed that he let none of that hit the stage. The show was worth every penny of the tickets, parking cost, and overpriced concessions. And then some. I can only imagine that the Billy Joel I saw in March of 2006 was equal to, and possibly even better than, the Billy Joel of the mid-80s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 2 = seven