Billy Joel With Jamie Cullum American Airlines Center, Dallas Thursday, January 22, 2014
I'll tell you straight up: Billy Joel can do whatever the hell he wants. He's been a shape-shifting musician throughout his mainstream career. He's had about as many musical styles as any good chameleon should. His first album, Cold Springs Harbor , was released in 1971, and he's still here. So you know what? Billy Joel can do whatever he wants. But, getting in front of thousands of people for the kickoff of his 2015 tour last night right here in Dallas at American Airlines Center and not performing "Uptown Girl," his seminal hit from 1983, is kind of pushing it. I mean, it's such a great song it's sampled on a track Lil' Wayne and Drake are on.
But that's fine because it's been seven years since Billy Joel has performed in Dallas and he put on a hell of a show even without "Uptown Girl." He opened the night with a rock number, "A Matter of Trust," from The Bridge, his tenth studio album. But the piano man headed straight to the piano by the second song, performing "Pressure" and "Everybody Loves You Now," which he told us is about his first ex wife.
"Then we got divorced," he quipped.
The first of two interactive crowd participatory moments came here when Joel gave the audience the option of three different songs for him to play. It was between "Vienna," "Summer, Highland Falls" and "Shameless." The winner was the song that the crowd reacted to, in his words, "the most vociferously." "Vienna" duly got the most vociferous reaction in Mr. Joel's eyes.
It was incredibly complicated to watch Joel perform, though. On the one hand, it seems like he hasn't lost his step in terms of singing. His voice is powerful. It doesn't miss notes. It climbs. Sinks. Peaks from a corner. It was never a voice that'd hold a candle to, say, Mariah Carey in her prime, but have you seen her lately? Oh, bless her heart. Joel says he's been doing this for 50 years, since he was a teenager. Carey's been alive for 45 total. It's kind of a feat. Joel is still a piano god. There's no question about it. But, you see that he's lost his step when he's literally moving about the stage.
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It's downright comical watching Joel try to be sexy (I think that's what it is) with a guitar around his shoulder. He's up there trying to be Elvis, swinging his hips suggestively. He could hurt himself. Break a hip -- if he wasn't moving so slowly and without grace. Though Joel is, yes, a consummate performer, the performance delves into camp too often. Like the one billion times he shouted out "Texas" and "Dallas." Billy, this isn't our first rodeo. This happens all the time, pal. And when he gets his guitar roadie, "Chain Saw," to perform "Highway to Hell," protruding gut and everything.
But, as mentioned previously, Joel is a fantastic showman and performer and he plays the piano better than most people brush their teeth. It's easy and effortless. And we'll get over the fact that Joel never played "Uptown Girl" or my personal favorite, "The Stranger." There was the ambitious-when-released "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," which is somewhere in between deep cut and hit in his catalog. He did "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) along with "The Ballad of Billy the Kid." And of course "Piano Man," which closed out the show before the encore, was a cloud pleaser. Joel didn't really even have to sing it because everyone knew the lyrics.
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So, the guy's been playing music for 50 years. He hasn't been in Dallas in seven. He doesn't play one of his clearly biggest hits. So what? Even though a guy who's selling $40 T-shirts at the merch table is clearly not doing it strictly for the love, there's obviously a lot of love he has for his profession. He calls it the best job in the world. It's okay if he's got to switch stuff up, because he's been doing this one thousand years (okay not literally but you get the point).
Oh and yeah, the crowd is in the upper regions of age as well. Which didn't stop someone from lighting up a joint towards the end of his set. I mean, only the good die young, right?
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