Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" by Billy Joel

The crowd at GM Place Tuesday night spanned three generations - I saw kids under ten and a few my parent's age - and they filled nearly every seat; in the course of ninety minutes they went from sedate to screaming as Billy Joel and his band unrolled a string of hits spanning more than 20 years, from 1971's Cold Spring Harbour to 1993's River of Dreams.

Coming off a six-month break in the midst of a two-year world tour, there were few glitches (a couple of missed lighting cues) but otherwise much strong musicianship in the tight set. It being near Hallowe'en, Joel treated us to a few bars of Alfred Hitchcock's theme - Charles Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette - and the first two verses of Monster Mash!

There was another a surprise number as well; in the midst of the concert Joel donned a guitar and announced that one of his long-time roadies was going to come out and perform a "sacred song". The apathy generated by that announcement was such that I think I even heard a few people boo. Then out walked a frankly scary looking gentleman - seriously, like an extra on The Sopranos - who proceeded to tear the roof down with a rousing rendition of AC/DC's Highway to Hell, to tumultuous applause and sustained audience participation.

A three-song encore closed the night; after the second - and my personal favourite, Only The Good Die Young - Joel made to leave the stage without playing the one we'd waited all evening to hear. As he stepped away from the piano the booing started; stepping toward to piano the cheering started, and on it went for about thirty seconds - back, boo, forth, cheer - until at last he sat down, donned his harmonica strap, and played that familiar opening refrain...

Singing along with a crowd of more than 20,000 to Piano Man I was struck by just why it is musicians put up with years of touring, lousy gigs, and disrupted family life; simply put, it's the adulation stupid. To sit onstage like that and hear a crowd that size singing your song back at you must be the greatest feeling there is for an artist.

Much thanks to my friend Leanne Padgett for the company, Orca Bay Entertainment for the venue, and Billy Joel for a lifetime of entertainment.
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