Better Than: Seeing Movin’ Out.
My best friend has loved Billy Joel since approximately the age of 3. She even has a small bust of Joel (you know, like the cream-colored ones of Beethoven and Mozart we’d get after piano recitals as a kid). So, when a friend spotted her two tickets to his “sold out” show last night, I went. Hell, he’s an icon.
The place was packed like a playoff game and we were seated in section Vertigo-0-1. But the man can inspire a crowd and we did get wrapped up in the arena-wide singing of the Christmas carols he interspersed through the set. Joel’s a great on-stage joker and riffed on his own drinking, driving problems and “needing money” (as he thanked the people seated way up in Lubbock for buying tickets). It was light. It was Adult Contemporary at it’s most accessible. It was Billy.
Then came the weird part. Joel introduced Cas Dillon, a floppy-haired kid with a guitar, as the guy that would sing this original song Joel crafted after being inspired by soldiers. We feared a revamped “Goodnight Saigon,” but it was worse. It was “Christmas in Fallujah.” It's a literal attempt at a soldier’s anthem, and it threw the audience for a loop—like Nickelback getting a drive-time rotation on the Oasis. Then what we assume were soldiers, but appeared dressed in black civies, lined up on the back deck of the stage and provided the “oohs aahs" (I believe an attempt to combine the Army hoo-ah with the Marine oo-rah for forces-wide appeal) for added effect. Oh, and yes, words were provided on the jumbo-tron. But, after Dillon ran off the stage, the band launched right into “Keepin’ the Faith” and yay, yay, yay everything was back to normal.
Highlights: “My Life,” “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” “You May Be Right,” “She’s Always A Woman” and, of course, “Piano Man.” Plus, a period of mike stand antics and twirling during which both of us were very concerned that Joel might hurt himself or others (our neighbors and we considered aloud, “Is he drunk?”). Anything that Crystal Taliefero did—sax, harmonica, percussion and singing the shit out of some background parts.
Why did he play thats: “Zanzibar,” “Innocent Man” and (oh why, God) “Big Shot.”
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Songs we would’ve been happy to hear, but were denied: “I Go to Extremes,” “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” and “To Make You Feel My Love.”
Critic's Notebook Personal bias: I accompanied said best friend to the Elton John and Billy Joel show at the AAC a few years ago. Despite his only writing the music of his songs, I go Elton where she goes Billy.
Random details: I saw more people purchasing the Billy Joel teddy bear than T-shirts. Most members of the band could have easily played extras on The Sopranos.
By the way: The two posters the BFF purchased were made of high-quality cardstock. The keychain, however, could have come straight from Spencer’s circa 1989. -- Merritt Martin