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Chasing The American Dream

January 17, 2006

PIANO MAN



I went alone and my seat was far away, but heck, I got to see and hear a legend. Sure I’d seen him 10 years ago with Elton, and the show was great, but it was a stadium show with a view even further away. I grew up with Billy the Kid. I was only 11 when Piano Man hit the charts back in ’73. Have I really been listening to this guy for over 30 years now? I contemplated buying a ticket. And his tour kick-off show didn’t get great reviews, but I decided this may be it for Billy. If I don’t see him now, I may never get the chance. So I plunked down $75 and decided that no matter how the show went, I’d take it all in and revel in his music and cherish the moments one last time.

He came out on the stage to a raucous roar. Dressed in blue jeans, a black mock, and a dark blazer. Sporting a grey goatee that matched his gray hair or what was left of his hair. He did look old. But he didn’t sound old, folks. At 8:20 p.m, he led off the incredible two-hour set with Angry Young Man and went right into My Life before he addressed the crowd. He acknowledged the somewhat obscure set had played last week to the confused faces of his fans. But he vowed he’d not make that mistake again and was quite confident we would recognize most of the songs this evening.

He played Everybody Loves You Now (pre-Piano Man) before dazzling the piano with a heartfelt New York State of Mind. As I listened, I was truly amazed at how strong his voice still was and how well he still sounded after all these years. He sang us the aptly-named Miami 2017 (better known as Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) and closed with Zanzibar before addressing us once again.

He somberly lamented the brutal beating and murder of homeless men in Fort Lauderdale by a teenage kid from Plantation of all places. He told us to be kind to homeless people because he was once one. But he got a break. ''There by the grace of God I go,'' he said before booming into an awesome rendition of Allentown. I called my mom during the song and let her hear it. She got to hear the next four songs or so before the phone cut out. Lucky mom got to hear Billy the Kid, Fantasy, Pressure, Big Shot, and Movin’ Out.

My seat wasn’t great. Billy actually opened the show with his back turned to me. I was bummed but then was relieved when the piano revolved around to my side. What a great idea. Everyone got their fair share of Billy. That’s how he explained it. “Except for the poor bastards in the nosebleed seats,“ he joked. He continued with Innocent Man and then played River of Dreams which sounds so good live. I remembered it from the previous concert. The percussion and background singers really stood out.

After Keepin’ the Faith and I Go to Extremes, Billy donned a backwards Kongol cap and a guitar for a spirited version of We Didn’t Start the Fire. The fast pace continued as he closed the long set with It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me and You May Be Right. I looked at my watch; it was 10:10 p.m. What a glorious two hours that was. He left the stage for 10 minutes before coming back on before an even louder ovation.

Billy said he felt confident we would know these next few. Only the Good Die Young started the encore followed by the melodic Scenes from and Italian Restaurant. Some really great piano playing on Restaurant. Of course, he closed with Piano Man. Everyone was waiting to hear it yet Billy hardly sang it. Instead he let the crowd sing the most of the verses while he sang the chorus. A fabulous time was had by all. I didn’t want to hear that last closing note. I wanted the show to go on and on. But I still waited for something I wanted to hear. I was probably the only one in the whole arena waiting to hear it.

You see, back in 2001, I was writing my book when I happened to see a Billy Joel special on A&E. He closed his special with some words that I’ll never forget. I needed to hear those words at that particular time in my life. I’m glad he said them because it honestly changed my attitude. I closed my book with those same words. Quoting him. (Little did I know that my book would have to be expanded for even more unforeseen events). Maybe they would change your attitude, too?

So I waited for him. He bowed to each side of the crowd. “Thank You, thank you.” C’mon Billy say it. He started walking off the stage now. “Good night everybody and remember…don’t take shit from anyone!!” I don’t think there was a happier person than me leaving that arena. Thanks for the reminder, Billy. I haven’t forgotten!

9 Comments:

  • Sounds like a great show . . . I wish I could have gone. Sooo jealous right now.

    By Blogger Miss Smartee Pants, at 11:20 PM, January 17, 2006  

  • Awww. He's the best. I think my favorite Billy song is Keepin the Faith. What's yours?

    Some days all you need is a little BJ to turn the day around. He's a true legend and I enjoyed your photos. Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Sass, at 11:31 PM, January 17, 2006  

  • Smartee, thanks for the visit. Twas a great show. Sassy, tough to call that one but I guess I'd have to say Captain Jack.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 3:12 AM, January 18, 2006  

  • What a great show that must have been. I would have gone, too. No matter what anyone had said. He's a legend and he's incredible and he plays the piano like the gift that it is.

    Glad you got to enjoy it!

    -Amy

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:29 PM, January 18, 2006  

  • I've seen Billy Joel three times in my life, one of those times was with Elton John. All three shows were different and all three were amazing. The one that I remember the most was in Tampa. It was a smaller venue, a small theatre. He closed with Piano Man as well, but what he did was incredible. He only hit four keys on the piano, then the crowd began to sing and he never touched the keys again. I'd never seen anything like that, and never anything like it since.

    You should check out the broadway show MOVIN' OUT - it's all about Billy. I recently saw it and loved it!

    By Blogger catsteevens, at 6:06 PM, January 18, 2006  

  • Thanks Amy. Agreed.
    Yeah Kat, I'm seeing Movin Out in 2 weeks!

    By Blogger Plantation, at 9:06 PM, January 18, 2006  

  • Wow Todd. Sounds like a great show. Wish I could have been there with you. I've always wanted to see Billy Joel in concert.

    Take care.

    By Anonymous ESSFingers, at 11:35 PM, January 19, 2006  

  • Yes Lori, if he ever comes to H-Town, go for it.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 2:29 AM, January 20, 2006  

  • I'm a big fan of Billy Joel as well. I saw him once at Penn State while I was an undergrad. It's amazing how much versatility he has: he can play almost any sound. He's just a great songwriter. "And So it goes" is beautiful: one of his best ballads. I like how is more recent stuff: innocent man, storm front, and river of dreams is still pretty damn good.
    Glad you had a great time!

    By Blogger Gatsby, at 3:44 PM, January 22, 2006  

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