Billy Joel proclaimed forty years ago that when New York City goes under in 2017, he’d flee to Florida in his classic “Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen The Lights Go Out)”. His prophetic words rang true a year early while New York and the entire upper East Coast was being blasted by an epic blizzard, Billy Joel escaped to Amalie Arena for his seventh concert in the Tampa Bay area in the last 15 years. The 66 year old songsmith is embarking on a 2016 world tour and kicked it off last night, the next US date is in Memphis in March before heading to Europe. The sold out crowd was in for a special treat as Billy dug deep into his catalog and dusted off some classic B-sides and even some special covers dedicated to his fallen Hall of Fame peers.
Going to a Billy Joel concert in 2016, you have to wonder does he still have the voice? Will he play your favorites with so many incredible songs to choose from? The answer to both questions is a resounding “Yes!” Three of my favorites are “Miami 2017”, “Vienna”, and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, and Billy knocked out two of them by his fourth song! Twice during the night, Billy offered the crowd a “fielder’s choice” – would you rather hear “An Innocent Man” or “The Longest Time”? The crowd enthusiastically chose the latter and Billy joked “you would pick the hardest one to sing!” The band broke into an impromptu version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to warm-up and ripped into the doo-wop favorite. Just prior to the encore, Billy added “Italian Restaurant” to complete my ultimate Billy Joel wish list tonight.
Early in the concert, Billy paid tribute to David Bowie with a short energetic version of “Rebel Rebel” and honored Glenn Frey with an extended snippet of “Desperado” and a full version of “Take It Easy”. He even snuck in a little piece of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” during “She’s Always A Woman”. You never how many opportunities you’ll have to see your music heroes, so tonight felt like a special treat to witness a true American legend as Billy Joel was in epic form this evening. The setlist included deeper cuts like “The Downeaster Alexa” (a Florida fishing favorite), “Zanzibar”, and “The Entertainer” who Billy dedicated to fellow New Yorker, Donald Trump.
Brenda and Eddie, Mama Leone, Davy (who’s still in the Navy), and Billy’s Uptown Girl made appearances during a greatest hits set of 26 songs that satisfied casual listeners and the die-hards. Billy jumped off the piano and strapped on an electric guitar for a passionate version of his history lesson, “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. A heartfelt crowd sing-a-long with “Piano Man” preceded Billy’s high energy five-song encore that included “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me”, “You May Be Right” (including a couple of extended Led Zeppelin verses from Whole Lotta Love and Rock and Roll) and concluded with “Only The Good Die Young”. As the curtain came down, Billy admonished the crowd, “Goodnight, Be Safe, and Turn Off the News Once In A While.” The Piano Man has still got it and if there’s any chance to catch one of his future shows, jump at the opportunity!
“Take It Easy (Glenn Frey tribute)” from a fan’s seat in the rafters!