Billy Joel Live In Vancouver – Oct. 30, 2007

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Billy Joel
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
General Motors Place
Vancouver, BC  Canada

***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

Many questioned Billy Joel’s “retirement” from pop music after 1993’s RIVER OF DREAMS album and his subsequent choice to compose classical music.  Despite releasing one album of piano compositions, little was heard from Joel in the ensuing decade but he recently decided to take a swim in familiar waters again by hitting the road and playing the hits for his fans.  With his seven-piece band in tow, Joel kicked off this tour playing for two hours to the muted delight of the well-behaved, mostly middle-aged crowd.

A film score-like instrumental served as an intro for the band as Joel’s baby grand piano rose from the gallows through the centre of the stage.  The 58-year old Joel, appearing in his trademark blue jeans and black t-shirt/blazer combo, still looks great, though, the thick crop of lush dark hair he once sported has been reduced to a close-cropped, mostly grey buzz cut (seeing himself on the giant video display at one point, he quipped, “It’s all about more head and less hair”).  Joel’s piano was on a rotating device that would spin to give everyone in the crowd a view of “The Piano Man” in action (Joel joked, “That’s about it for the special effects!”).  A group of New York-based musicians round out Joel’s backing band along with long-time members, percussionists/horn players, Mark Rivera and Crystal Taliefero. 

Joel has played Vancouver many times over the years but he related his first visit—opening for The Beach Boys in 1971—as a memorable experience only because he was booed off the stage by the headliner’s fans wanting to hear “California Girls,” not piano ballads.  This crowd seemed relatively subdued through the first third of the show, as well, but with little-known album cuts like the jazzy “Zanzibar” from 1978’s 52ND STREET and “Everybody Loves You Now” from 1971’s COLD SPRING HARBOR dotting the setlist, it was little wonder the flames of enthusiasm roused by “Allentown” and “My Life” were quickly doused.  It took a Halloween-inspired medley of the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents…” theme and “The Monster Mash” to get the crowd on its feet but Joel capitalized on this by kicking out a flawless version of the jaunty “Root Beer Rag.”  Almost as if it were pre-staged, when the band launched into “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” a surge of a few dozen, mostly-female revellers stormed the front of the stage and were soon followed by many others looking for a more energetic evening than polite toe-tapping in their seats.  Soon, the big, tribal drums of “The River of Dreams” had most people on their feet but it wasn’t until Joel turned the microphone over to his roadie, Chainsaw, for a “religious song”—which turned out to be a fun cover of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”—that the night finally sparkled with some much-needed energy.  Joel did his best Elvis moves during “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” and rode his piano stool like it was a bucking bronco during “You May Be Right” before disappearing for the encore.  Returning for a killer trio of “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” “Only The Good Die Young” and a rousing sing-along of “Piano Man,” Joel left on a high note and the appreciative crowd bid he and his band a fond farewell.

Prelude/Angry Young Man
My Life
Everybody Loves You Now
The Entertainer
The Downeaster “Alexa”
New York State of Mind
Root Beer Rag
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
An Innocent Man
She’s Always A Woman
Keeping The Faith
The River of Dreams
Highway To Hell (AC/DC cover)
We Didn’t Start The Fire
Big Shot
It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me
You May Be Right
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Only The Good Die Young
Piano Man

Billy Joel has never been the epitome of cool and the hipster crowd would never be caught dead admitting to knowing a single song but no one can deny that from 1977 through the late-eighties, he was untouchable with hit after hit exploding off a string of commercially-successful albums.  It’s a pity that Joel left off “The Stranger,” “Just The Way You Are,” “Pressure” and even later hits like “That’s Not Her Style” in favour of bathroom-break cues like “Zanzibar” and “Everybody Loves You Now” but overall, this was an excellent set.  Joel has surrounded himself with extremely talented musicians who augment his own incredible piano skills, so hopefully he has gotten the classical jones out of his system and will come back to playing popular music again.

***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.

Billy Joel—Official Site