Thursday, February 08, 2007

Billy Joel Concert

Michelline and I went to see Billy Joel last night as he kicked off his US tour to a sold-out crowd in Jacksonville. I've been to see very few concerts, and I was looking forward to this one. Billy Joel has always been one of my favorites. One thing about Billy Joel - he's got so many hit albums and so many songs, you never really know where he's going to go. I like almost all of his stuff, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed no matter what was on the set list for the night.

He was at the new arena downtown, which is also a basketball/hockey/whatever else they can fit in venue. It's a nice place with good visibility and ok acoustics. Facing the stage, we were in the stands on the right hand side, about halfway up. Of course, they also had a monitor in the center of the roof so we could see some of the things you can't make out if you're not right by the stage. So, like I said, the sound was ok. This is the complaint I have about a lot of live music I've seen, that they sacrifice sound quality for volume. I know that you want it to be loud, that's one reason to go to a concert - you get to be surrounded by the music, to kind of be a part of it. But when the guitars drown out the vocals and the sound blares, I just think there's got to be a better way.

The show started with a bang as Joel rose along with his piano in the center of the stage playing something pretty good that I didn't recognize. Heavy on the piano, which I like. Then he went into "My Life" to get the fans going. During the first half, he alternated fan favorites - "Allentown", "Don't Ask My Why", "The Entertainer" with some stuff they haven't played in concert since the 70's, according to Joel. His voice still sounds good - clear and confident, and he had a lot of energy on stage. The crowd was into the show, but not overwhelmed early. There were a few people standing up, but most of us were sitting for this part. He's comfortable on the stage, which you would expect of someone who's been playing and touring since the early 70's. He was funny, and thanked everyone, especially the people who bought the "shitty seats".

After the first hour, he did a few slower songs - "New York State of Mind", which seems to be a favorite for a lot of people although not one of my favorites, "She's Always a Woman", and "An Innocent Man". On this last one, he has to hit the high note and hold it, and he did a good job. He sounded good all night.

For the second half, he started picking it up and really got things going, (and surprised everyone) when he said he was bringing one of his crew up to sing a "religious song, a sacred song" and to give him a chance. So this fat guy with a t-shirt and a mic comes out and they break into "Highway to Hell" with Joel on the guitar. Of course, it's a great song and they did it well, and it got everyone on their feet and moving. From that point on, most people were standing and dancing. He went into "We Didn't Start the Fire", from there, and "Big Shot" among a few others. Energy was really high and there was a real buzz for this whole set, good stuff. Then the band left the stage and the crowd was screaming and waving lighters and cell phones for a few minutes waiting for the encore everyone knew was coming. They came back out and did "Only the Good Die Young" which is one of my favorites, and then the band left again. Joel played with the audience a little and pretended to leave the stage, and finally sat down and finished up with the song he had to play - "Piano Man". It was a great ending, and the Joel let the crowd sing the chorus, which we were all doing anyway. It was a great way to finish a great show.

One interesting thing I noticed at the end - we were in a sold-out arena, probably 15000 people, and I couldn't find a black person. I know there had to be a few black people there, but they were nearly impossible to find. It was a sea of white faces. I guess it's not surprising, I just hadn't really thought about it before. Another thing was the variety of age groups. There were a surprising number of younger people, people in their 20's. Surprising to me because his last album was 1993. And there were also a lot of people in Joel's own age group. But everybody had a good time. Some of the most enthusiastic were some of the young women. No underwear was tossed, but there was a lot of energetic dancing.

I'm really glad I went. It was my wife's idea, and I probably would have skipped it, as I've never been much of a concert-goer, and I'm glad she suggested it. If he comes back, I'll definitely see him again.

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