Billy Joel Rocks in Frankfurt, and I Roll With Him

Billy Joel was born in 1949 and has been making hit records since the 70's. I first heard Uptown Girl (Note: NOT the Weststlife version, okay?), and then the album, An Innocent Man, and then Piano Man, The Nylon Curtain and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. In 1992 (or thereabouts) he dropped by my University to give a question, answer and song session. I was there, and I thought he rocked. Fourteen years later, twenty years after I heard him sing about Christine Brinkley, I finally catch him live, in concert.

And he still rocks.

Indeed, Billy Joel is in Germany, performing in Hamburg and Frankfurt (I don't know why not Berlin), and if the response in the other concerts are like what I saw tonight, there aren't enough dates to cover demand.

The venue for tonight's gig was the Festhalle. Frankfurt is renowned for being the trade fair capital of Germany, and the Festhalle is one of the locations used for them. I estimate that it might be able to seat a few thousand, and with the standing area iin front of the stage packed forty rows deep, there must have more than five or six thousand people attending. True, nothing compared to the fifty thousand that go to a World Cup game, and yet still quite impressive for a singer who doesn't have a new album to promote.

Anyway, it was Billy all the way, punctuated by one song by a roadie (Highway to Hell with Billy Joel on guitars, if you're interested). The energy the man has at 57 is phenomenal.

He started off with Angry Young Man, which has a rocking intro. It was then that I noticed that because I had arrived a little late (only half an hour before the concert began), there were a lot of people between me and the stage. All I could see was Billy's balding head. I definitely couldn't see his hands playing the piano.

I've got to explain something here. I'm a big fan of singer/songwriters who play the piano. Not sure why. Billy Joel. Ben Folds Five. Diana Krall. Jamie Cullum. Jerry Lee Lewis. Bill Withers. (Strangely enough, not so much Elton John. And definitely not Richard Clayderman.)

And every time I go watch a piano concert, I like to sit where I can see the pianist's hands playing. Just to watch, you understand. Those who can't really play, watch and admire.

The added bonus with Billy Joel is that I started to really play the piano because of him. I mean, I'd been playing organ for several years (you know, those Technics number-your-fingers courses), but I started experimenting, and trying different styles, trying variations of melodies. Not that it did me that much good, but I love playing because of him.

So, to finally see him live, and then just see his bobbing head is, frankly, a little galling.

But the music rocks.

I can't keep track of the full song list, but highlights included: An Innocent Man, with finger clicking, a segue from Stand By Me, and Billy hitting all the high notes; It's Still Rock and Roll to Me done Elvis-style; Big Shot, replete with mike stand twirling; an excellent rendition of Keeping the Faith; Pressure, complete with strobe lights and intensity; and, of course, Piano Man, where he let the audience sing the chorus.

And he rocked.

For a guy who's fifty seven, he's still pumping strong. Very impressive. His face was getting more red as the concert went on, but everyone's was - the hall was hot as heck, even I was wilting a little.

In the end, it was about two and a bit hours of music, and of course I felt cheated. There were so many he didn't get to cover: Just the Way You Are, The Stranger, Baby Grand, The Longest Time, Vienna...

But it's okay. He still rocked.

Other songs he performed: The Entertainer, Zanzibar, Don't Ask Me Why, Billy The Kid, Matter of Trust, Only the Good Die Young, Movin' Out, Leningrad, Allentown, My Life, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, She's Always a Woman, Honesty, New York State of Mind.

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posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - permalink
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