Billy Joel Show Review

bill

Venue: Pepsi Center

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 09/16/15

Inebriation Level: Too Sober For Comfort

For some reason, when I was a kid, the very first bands I jammed to were The Beatles and Billy Joel. I still have those cassette tapes (damn I feel old) in a box somewhere. My Dad was a huge Beatles fan, so that made sense. No idea where the Billy Joel thing came from, but Hell, I figured it was about time to see him live.

The Piano Man wasn’t on the top of my list like The Rolling Stones or Neil Young, but I’d heard rave reviews about his shows. I wasn’t expecting one of those epic jam kind of shows, but one of those play all the hits kind of shows.

When we finally made the decision to buy tickets, our man Bill had darn near sold out the Pepsi Center. Tickets were going for ridiculous amounts on resale and the best seats we could get from the venue were behind the stage at the very top of the arena, literally the last row. We shrugged it off and went to purchase them the next day, and somehow, it gave us seats in row four. Suddenly I was a little more excited to sing “Movin’ Out” to anyone within 10 feet of my vicinity.

billy band

Because I had to work later that night I was uncharacteristically sober when we arrived nice and early. Not seeing a listed opener, we assumed it was just the man himself, but instead Gavin DeGraw opened for them. Not knowing anything about him or being very interested, we used that time to wander and grab beer, and in the process high-fived Gavin himself and got shoved by a security guard. Not a bad start to the show.

After an elaborate setup on stage, the theme song from the movie The Natural played loudly over the speakers and the lights came down. Out walked The Piano Man with his full crew, and he seemed like such an unassuming normal dude. Then you saw him take a seat at the piano. His throne. He was in his element, and as they launched into “Big Shot,” we got the feeling it would be one Hell of a show. They did another heavy hitter with “My Life” before Billy stopped to joke with the audience, noting that the last time he was in Denver was with “the other guy.” He then started what seemed like a tender cover of “Your Song” before saying, “You see, just bullshit.”

He’d crack a lot more jokes throughout night and do quite a few more song snippets, including “Sherry,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Rocky Mountain Way”, “Layla,” “Rocky Mountain High”, and “Rock and Roll.” They would either randomly toss them in between songs while he was talking to the audience or seamlessly roll in and out of them during a song. It was a welcome sight to see Billy Joel not taking himself or the concert too seriously.

billy close

He next played “Vienna” saying he wanted to play some album songs, and interspersed some deep cuts among the many hits on a set list that ended up near 30 songs. “The Entertainer” built up to an impressive crescendo while “The Longest Time” turned into a Doo-Wop medley.

We were all worried our living rooms would be targeted during the screeching tires of “Movin’ Out” and sang loud and proud to the line, “Getting high in the Rockies, among the Evergreens” during a monster “New York State of Mind.” His hits continued to sound impressive, his ballads were tender, and his band wasn’t missing a beat. Billy still had it. We were fortunate enough to see the cues he gave to the band, when he was really belting it, and even when he was so into a song he stood up off his piano bench.

Then Billy got up and tossed on Les Paul. The piano man…was the guitar man? Didn’t sound right. He launched into a surprisingly awesome rendition of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Afterward he said that one of the roadies was actually a really good singer and they wanted to give him a chance to prove himself in front of the Denver audience by singing a religious song. Out came Chainsaw the roadie, who really looked like a guy named Chainsaw, and lead the band with Billy Joel behind him for a cover of “Highway to Hell.” Now that’s something you don’t see everyday.

bill guitar

After a great “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” we saw The Piano Man don a harmonica for his first hit and biggest song. Of course the crowd joined in for the whole song and the concert ended in epic fashion. The encore was guns blazing with hits and ended with one of the best of the night, “Only the Good Die Young.”

Considering I’m the kind of guy that likes a wild jamming show and usually skips the big acts playing all their hits, I had myself a damn good time. Not only were my ears ringing as we left the venue, but my throat was sore from singing along to nearly every song. I guess Billy Joel just has that effect on you. That’s why every karaoke bar still plays “Piano Man” and the man is selling out arenas 40 years later.

5/5: Legendary

5 Records

Set List:

Big Shot
My Life
Vienna
The Entertainer
Say Goodbye to Hollywood
The Ballad of Billy the Kid
The Longest Time
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Zanzibar
New York State of Mind
No Man’s Land
Allentown
Keeping the Faith
Sometimes a Fantasy
She’s Always a Woman
Don’t Ask Me Why
We Didn’t Start the Fire
Highway to Hell (featuring Chainsaw the roadie)
The River of Dreams
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
Piano Man
Encore:
Uptown Girl
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
You May Be Right
Only the Good Die Young

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