Billy Joel returned to Baltimore last week for the first time since 1977 to play at the M&T Bank Stadium. The crowd began piling in the purple seats just a little after 7:30.
Being born to two huge Billy Joel fans, I’ve been listening to the man since birth and been a huge fan for just a few years less. It’s been on my bucket list to see him in concert and hear some of my all-time favorite songs live, so I was a little offended when an older couple behind me asked if my brother and I even knew who Billy Joel was. Duh.
With his piano dead center and an impressive band behind him, Joel kicked off the show with Big Shot. At 66, the man is still killing it. He can still sing and wow, can he still play. Over the next two and a half hours, he played through non-stop hits, making sure to play the fan favorites from each of his albums. Before almost every song, he told the audience what album it was from and what year it was released. How you remember that when you have thirteen studio albums is beyond me.
Joel is a classic artist trying to keep up with music in the modern world, and he’s succeeding. On Saturday night, wearing a suit and tie, Joel sat behind his piano and played just like he’s been doing for years. He doesn’t move nearly as much as he used to–he barely left his piano all night–but he doesn’t need to. What keeps it ‘up with the times’ is the impressive light show, the huge video screens, and the song-complimenting picture show behind him. He doesn’t need it, but it’s keeping him ‘relevant’ and it’s paying off. While most of the audience was over forty, a fair share of Millennials like myself made an appearance and we will keep Billy Joel’s music alive in years to come.
Every couple of songs the piano would flip so it was facing the other direction, and he would keep on playing. Joel made comments throughout the show, joking about his younger self and some fly that kept flying around his head. After playing “The Entertainer” he joked about clearly not knowing anything because he hasn’t been on the charts in years and well, he’s still selling out shows.
“But I know the game, you’ll forget my name, and I won’t be here another year, if I don’t stay on the charts.”
He finished “She’s Always a Woman” with a “yeah, but that relationship didn’t work out.”
He gave the audience choices on which songs they wanted to hear next. Joel called it ‘fielder’s choice,’ and he would name two songs and play the one that received the loudest cheer. Strategically, the second one was always a more popular tune, and Joel and the band knew that one would win every time, but it was still a fun way to involve the crowd.
He finished his set by putting his harmonica on and playing “Piano Man” for an arena full of swaying and singing/screaming fans. Joel completed the night with a four-song encore including Uptown Girl, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, You May Be Right (featuring opener LeAnn Rimes) and Only the Good Die Young.
Going into the concert, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I would love it no matter what because I love Billy Joel, but I didn’t know if he would still sound good or have any energy. The concert was everything I could have hoped for and more. Billy Joel is a legend and at 66 is seriously still slaying the game. His songs are incredible, and while he sits pretty much the whole show, the way he plays the piano is entertainment enough.
I highly recommend everyone take the chance to see Billy while you still can (even though he doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon)! Check out his upcoming tour dates and keep an eye out for Billy Joel’s tribute album slated to come out later this year!
(During LeAnn Rimes opening set she sang Joel’s “Goodnight My Angel” and announced that she had recorded it for a Billy Joel Tribute album coming out in 2015.)