Saturday, May 17, 2014

Billy Joel, May 17, 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl

I’d seen Billy Joel years ago and that was probably good enough for the rest of my life but in the time since I’d developed more of an appreciation of his catalog (even if it was still only off the first two greatest-hits volumes) and I wouldn’t have minded seeing him again.  Playing the Bowl was an event in itself, maybe even rivaling the show at the MGM in Vegas with Elton John where I saw him the first time.  He had said that it wasn’t going to be a greatest-hits set, and he could be forgiven for not going down that road yet again.  Heck, this was after how many times that he’d said he had retired.  So I hadn’t jumped on tickets but Carla knew I had some desire to go, and she knew we could make a great night of it, and that became my birthday present.  Not bad.  We jumped into Bowl-mode, getting a picnic dinner together and having time outside before going into the show, which was as full as we’d ever seen it.  The set turned out to have enough hits to satisfy us, more than half, and we didn’t feel like we missed anything by not knowing every single song, since those songs were still as solid as any other popular thing he’d done anyway.  This was more of a show by an artist, performing for the crowd that came to see him, rather than pandering to what he thought they wanted.  And that worked fine, since a master showman like himself knows just how much to dole out.  The high-point for me came early (and it would have been as great a shock as I’ve ever gotten at a concert if I hadn’t looked at his recent set-lists beforehand) that he played “Pressure,” a criminally-forgotten gem not only in his catalog but in the entire oeuvre of great rock music.  I never understood why no hard-rock band has ever turned around a cover of that song, especially back in the late-’90s when every nu-metal band tried to make their name on an easy ‘80s cover (and, unfortunately, some of them succeeding).  It came too early in the set, with Joel and his band not quite warm enough to bring much heat to the tune, but the fact it was included and that they made a go of it was enough for me.  The rest of the night might have been a typical evening at the Bowl but that’s nothing less than reliably extraordinary and special.  And if Joel isn’t going to actually, officially retire, maybe he has another series of shows like this still in him, maybe with some other hits, maybe with a pick-up band to tear down his catalog like it hasn’t already been done.

Billy Joel’s set-list:
“Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)“
“Everybody Loves You Now“
“Vienna“ (audience chose between this and “Summer Highland Falls“)
“The Magnificent Seven Theme“ (Elmer Bernstein cover) (snippet)
“The Ballad of Billy the Kid“
“The Entertainer“
“Where's the Orchestra?“
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood“ (first time since the '80s)
“New York State of Mind“
“Sometimes a Fantasy“
“Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)“ (“Layla“ interlude)
“She's Always a Woman“
“Don't Ask Me Why“
“The River of Dreams“ (featuring part of "Surfin' USA")
“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant“
“Piano Man“

“It's Still Rock and Roll to Me“
“Big Shot“
“You May Be Right“ (with Adam Levine)
“Only the Good Die Young“