Monday, January 09, 2006

Billy Joel pulled it out in the end

Well, since Jason likes him so much and I do enjoy listening to him play...
Piano man rallies after curious twist

January 9, 2006

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Billy Joel pulled it out in the end, like his beloved Yankees trying to salvage a season.

Halfway through the launch of his latest tour -- his first as a solo headliner in nearly seven years -- here at the BankAtlantic Center Saturday night, it wasn't exactly a sure thing.

Joel opened strong with "Piano Man" and grand versions of "Allentown" and "New York State of Mind" quickly followed. But the early inclusion of "Everybody Loves You Now," a nugget from 1971's "Cold Spring Harbor," and a Beatles-esque take on "Laura" from 1982's "The Nylon Curtain" suggested that he was easing the crowd into a different kind of Billy Joel show -- one that supported his recent "My Lives" box set, which collected rare tracks and demos from throughout his career.

But that didn't come close to preparing them for the show's huh?-inducing mid-section: "Stiletto," "Zanzibar," "Great Wall of China," "All for Leyna," "Sometimes a Fantasy," "Sleeping with the Television On," "The Night Is Still Young," "Big Man on Mulberry Street" and "Where Is the Orchestra?"

Granted, it's a boon for many fans to see these songs -- especially the lovely "Where Is the Orchestra?" -- performed for the first time. And it's quite daring for Joel to go that long without throwing in one of his best-known hits. Unfortunately, it didn't work and it seems Joel could tell, since he "called an audible" on stage to let the band and crew know he was moving the rocker "Sometimes a Fantasy" up in the set.

There's little to complain about the songs individually, since Joel's voice and his first-rate backing band were as strong as ever. But taken together, they slowed the pace too much and erased the momentum generated by the start.

It's all part of the process of building a new tour -- along with getting the lighting cues right so that Joel could see drummer Chuck Burgi to know when the songs started. Rest assured, Joel fans, by the time he arrives at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 23, for the first of -- at last count -- nine concerts through March 2, this will, no doubt, be fixed by a couple of substitutions.

Starting with "Keeping the Faith," Joel began building the energy level again, before finishing the set with a powerful quartet of rockers -- "I Go to Extremes," "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Big Shot" and "You May Be Right." All four benefited from some new harmony arrangements that showcase Crystal Taliefero's vocals more and get some heft from guitarist Tommy Burns, bassist Andy Cichon and saxophonist Mark Rivera.

"River of Dreams," the first encore, had Joel and the band running like a well-oiled machine, putting to rest any worries about Joel handling a full two-hour-plus show on his own again after years of abbreviated sets he co-headlined with Elton John.

After all, few veteran rockers can close a show like Joel. And when he unleashes his murderer's row of hits, he is next to unstoppable.



At 1/10/2006 10:27 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Thanks, Bri. He's now playing something like 10 dates at MSG and I'm trying to get tickets to just one of them. Ticketbastard makes it very difficult. I'm even more frustrated after seeing such an eclectic setlist. It'll be interesting to see if such a list makes it to NYC.

At 1/10/2006 8:49 PM, Anonymous jefito said...

The part of the set the reviewer had an issue with sounds like a dream come true to me...


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