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Old 03-02-2007, 01:14 PM   #1
Auburn Annie
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Billy Joel at Philips
By Rodney Ho | Friday, March 2, 2007, 12:27 AM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

At age 57, Billy Joel is no longer an angry young man by any stretch of the imagination.

“I’m actually Billy’s dad,” he joked at one point.

He mocked his receding hairline, rubbing his bald head during a reference to a pompadour in “Keeping the Faith.” His vocals were sometimes nearly drowned out by his powerful band. And he didn’t do as much frenetic jumping around during “Big Shot” like he had on past tours.

But middle-aged Billy isn’t so bad. Despite few surprises, his triumphant return to a packed Philips Arena after a five-year break satisfied both casual fans and those who wanted to hear a few oldies but goodies that he hasn’t played in years. He sifted through a bulk of his huge hits from the ’70s (“Movin’ Out,” “Only the Good Die Young”), the ’80s (“Allentown,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire”) and the ’90s (a rockin’ version of “River of Dreams.”) As typical of his shows, his production was frill free and set up so he could sell seats behind the stage as well.

“I really do need the money now,” he cracked. “You wouldn’t believe my car insurance.” Yes, he was alluding to his many vehicular mishaps in recent years.

Dressed in his usual jeans and black-shirt-and-jacket combo, Joel spent most of his time on a rotating piano so fans could see him from all angles. He did add one modern feature: a piano-cam, which enabled folks who could see the small screens off the ceiling of the arena watch his fingers fly up and down the ivories.

Joel front-loaded the more obscure tunes to the first half of the concert, even throwing in a forgotten gem from his very first album, “Everybody Loves You Now” as well as deep cuts such as “Vienna” and “Zanzibar.”

And he made sure he gave plenty of props to Georgia artists. He interluded “River of Dreams” with Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly,” snuck in a bit of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay.” And right before he jumped into “Piano Man,” he sung a portion of “Georgia on My Mind.” (Joel and Ray Charles were quite chummy back in the day.)

His piano skills are still strong, from the eye-popping moves on “Angry Young Man” to a fun instrumental he did for his “Streetlife Serenade” album dubbed “Root Beer Rag.” And since he reportedly stopped drinking, his vocals seem to be in better shape too, especially early on. He even hit the high note in the chorus of “An Innocent Man,” a note on past tours he had outsourced to his female backup singer.

And as he sang songs about bottles of red and bottles of white, the only bottle on his piano was a Dasani.

Oddly, one of the highlights of the concert had nothing to do with Joel per se. Midway through, he let one of his roadies (nicknamed Chainsaw) show off his vocal skills. The big man romped through AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” while Billy canoodled on a guitar. The crowd ate it up.

Odder still: given what a diehard Yankee fan Joel is, it was jarring to see him wearing a Braves cap during “Big Shot.” But he flung it into the audience as soon as the song was over.

But not odd at all: the man’s ability to sponge off the adulation from the crowd was both shameless and amusing.

Set list (concert length: approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, starting at 8:20 p.m., ending at 10:40 p.m.)

Prelude/Angry Young Man

My LIfe

Everybody Loves You Now

The Entertainer

Vienna (voted by the audience over “All About Soul” though it was close)

Allentown

Zanzibar

New York State of Mind

Root Beer Rag

Movin’ Out

Stand By Me (brief excerpt)/An Innocent Man

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay (shortened version)

Don’t Ask Me Why

She’s Always a Woman

Keeping the Faith

River of Dreams (included a short interlude of “Good Golly Miss Molly”)

Highway to Hell (by his roadie Chainsaw while Billy played guitar)

We Didn’t Start the Fire

Big Shot

It’s Still Rock-n-Roll To Me

You May Be Right

ENCORE

Only the Good Die Young

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

Georgia on My Mind (shortened version)

Piano Man

Personal disclosure: This is my sixth time I’ve seen Billy. His was the first rock concert I ever attended when I was a teen in 1986. I’ve never had the opportunity to interview him and probably never will given his general aversion to journalists. But I have spoken to his wife Katie Lee briefly and interviewed his daughter last year Alexa Ray. Plus, I had a good friend Daniel Howell from high school spend the summer of ‘85 doing landscaping and cleaning Billy’s boat and motorcycle.
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Old 03-02-2007, 02:09 PM   #2
charlene
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I've seen BJ about 6 or 7 times going back to his hit in the mid 70's - Captain Jack. Back then he filled Massey Hall-he was there once as an opener for the Doobie Brothers.Also saw him with Elton John a few years ago..quite enjoyable!

He's a great entertainer and shamelessly milks affection from the audience - all in good fun and he gives a concert goer their money's worth. Got all the albums-even the classical one he did which is quite lovely..He's a talented fellow who has his own demons to deal with from time to time..he'll be in Toronto in April..I generally like the seats 'behind' the stage because he alwyas has ramps and keyboards/pianos at the back of the set and when he comes back there to entertain us it's like we have front row seats. All of his band move around a lot as well so it's a great spot to watch the show and the audience! Liberty de Vito on drums is worth the price of admission alone.
lol
Got lots of great pics over the years..
He's written a lovely song for his new wife..it was free to listen to a while ago but not sure now..it's quite nice. His rock and roll stuff is great but he does write some very pretty love songs/ballads as well.
http://www.billyjoel.com/site.html

[ March 02, 2007, 13:17: Message edited by: charlene ]
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Old 03-02-2007, 07:53 PM   #3
Borderstone
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I've never gotten to see him live darn it!

Not even when he and Elton John hit the raod together. I like your review though and it makes me want to swear that I "will" see him next time he's in Phoenix.

Got all of his albums & hit songs though.
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