I’ve known about Billy Joel pretty much my entire life. I’ve enjoyed most of the songs of his I heard, namely his singles, but I never really did a deep dive into his catalog so I am not sure I would call myself a fan per say. I did always appreciate his music though. He was an artist that just always felt just out of reach because there was so much great new music that it was hard to go back and dive into the past. Thinking like that now is ridiculous, hell it was probably ridiculous back then too but I just didn’t really have any access to his albums as a kid. I don’t think my parents were fans and if they were I never heard of it.
Over the years, I’d hear he was coming to town and always thought about going. It’s sure to be a great show even if I wasn’t familiar with all of this songs. For whatever reason (I’m gonna guess cost), I just never made it.
That all changed on May 13 when Billy Joel took the stage at Dodger Stadium and delivered a top notch set for the next two and a half hours give or take. It was an evening of great songs and surprises. I was excited to see a bona fide legend on stage for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect if I am being honest. What I got was a charming funny and true to form Billy Joel. It was a really fantastic night.
He hit a lot of the songs you’d expect but he also put a couple of the songs up to the audience. By applause they could choose between two choices. The first time he did this the choice was between “Just The Way You Are” and “Vienna.” The second was between “An Innocent Man” and “The Longest Time.” “Vienna” and “The Longest Time” won those battles.
He peppered some songs with stories, the most entertaining of which related how historically inaccurate The Ballad of Billy the Kid is. He was a guy on top of his game with a stellar band playing songs that, I assume, he still loves. The crowd was on fire, he was on fire, the night was all in all fantastic. There was one low-point, however, and it involved one of the (rather excellent) special guests.
First up, he brought out Pink, in my opinion one of the most underrated pop stars, to sing “New York State of Mind” with him. It was exceptional. Pink has got a killer voice that she does not get near enough credit for. She nailed that song and the joy to be singing with Billy was evident. She then performed one of her songs while Billy took a quick moment off stage before returning and playing the rest of the song with her. That song happened to be my favorite Pink song so I was more than happy to hear it.
Billy Joel rocks out
Later, Billy donned a guitar for a couple of songs. The first being the AC/DC classic “Highway To Hell” for which he brought out Axl Rose. Now, I don’t think anyone was expecting this and why would you? Here’s the thing. Axl sounded amazing. He killed it. It was a stellar performance. It felt like prime GnR, enough so that I was ready to drop cash on a GNR tour right then and there. Unfortunately though, Axl is responsible for the low point of the show when he returned towards the end of the show to sing “Big Shot.” It’s just not his wheelhouse. He was all over the place and it was the complete opposite of the earlier performance. He tried though, even the audience said he tried and they gave him love for it (although I suspect is was more love for killing HTH earlier).
Overall, it was a really great night of music. Billy Joel really shinned and his band was just on fire. One particular highlight was his guitarist, Mike DelGuidice, doing a particularly stirring, beautiful even, rendition of Nessun Dorma. It was a gorgeous unexpected moment that I was really impressed by.
I am really glad that I got the opportunity to see Billy Joel live. It was an amazing show that I loved start to finish, heck even the low note performance from Axl was saved by the musicianship from Joel and his band. I went in a casual listener but dammit if I didn’t leave a fan. Given the chance to see him live, you will too. (see below for setlist and another take on the tour)
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
(with “Ode To Joy” intro)
(Elton John cover) (Snippet)
(fans choice over “Just The Way You Are”)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
(Solomon Linda cover)
The Longest Time
(fans choice over “An Innocent Man”)
The Magnificent Seven Theme
(Elmer Bernstein cover)
The Ballad of Billy the Kid
Don’t Ask Me Why
New York State of Mind
(Pink cover) (with P!nk)
She’s Always a Woman
Say Goodbye to Hollywood
Sometimes a Fantasy
Highway to Hell
(AC/DC cover) (with Axl Rose)
We Didn’t Start the Fire
The River of Dreams
(With The Eagles’ “Take It Easy”)
(Giacomo Puccini cover) (sung by Mike DelGuidice; Billy Joel on piano)
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
(with Axl Rose)
Only the Good Die Young
You May Be Right
(With a snippet of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll”)
Garon loved it, but what did long-time Billy Joel fan Martina think?