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Arts and Entertainment

Concert Review: Billy Joel @ Honda Center, 2/23/08

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The piano man is also a guitar man

I’m not ashamed to admit that somewhere among my Jon Brion, Of Montreal and Vampire Weekend albums, you’ll find a bunch of Billy Joel CDs. Although I wasn’t even born when he first hit the airwaves, I’ve always had a soft spot for his music. Since I didn’t get to see him perform during the days when he was releasing and performing new music, I was excited for the opportunity to see him Saturday night in Anaheim.

The evening began at 8:30 p.m. when Joel took the stage at the Honda Center. He introduced himself as “Billy’s dad” because “Billy was busy at home…combing his hair.” He thanked those sitting in the nosebleed seats (which he referred to as “all the way in Rancho Cucamonga”) and said he appreciated their support in buying tickets because his “car insurance rates have gone through the roof.”

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I think that one unique challenge he must face when performing in a venue like this is that there’s not enough time to play all his popular songs, because there are just too many. In the end, I'd guess he probably averaged two songs per album.

After a performance of “Captain Jack,” he told the story of how, when Hillary Clinton was running for a seat in the Senate, her aides accidentally played "Captain Jack" rather than “New York State of Mind” at a rally. Soon after that, her then-opponent Rudy Giuliani jumped on the gaffe, stating that her mistake encouraged drug use. It took Joel a lot longer than it should have to tell the story, because each time Clinton’s name was mentioned, choruses of cheers and boos erupted from various concertgoers. It seemed like he just wanted to tell a funny story, but it was obvious that things are different in an election year.

I’m sure he said some other interesting things, however, I ended up sitting next to really-drunk-and-endlessly-yelling-in-my-ear-guy (who later ended up ruining my purse by doing some flail-armed dance move and dumping his sixth cup of beer all over me).

Although the stage setup wasn’t too fancy, Joel’s piano rotated every 30 minutes or so to give each side of the auditorium a chance to see his face as well as his piano-work.

At one point, Joel picked up a guitar and invited one of his crew members, “Chainsaw,” to join him on the stage. Chainsaw then performed AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” with Joel on guitar. That got the Honda Center jumping. In fact, some people remained in that spirit to the point that I even saw one guy head-banging to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” during the encore.

All in all, the experience of those 2 hours and 20 minutes was what I’d hoped it would be. Billy Joel is still an entertainer, and he’ll always be the piano man.

Setlist
My Life
Everybody Loves You Now
The Entertainer
The Ballad of Billy the Kid
Allentown
New York State of Mind
Zanzibar
Root Beer Rag
Movin' Out
Don't Ask Me Why
Captain Jack
She's Always a Woman
Keeping the Faith
River of Dreams
Highway to Hell [Chainsaw on vocals]
We Didn't Start the Fire
It's Still Rock and Roll to Me
You May Be Right
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Only the Good Die Young
Piano Man

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