Originally, I wasn’t going to go to Billy Joel. The $100+ price (not including all the associated fees and whatnot) was simply too much. I mean, I like Billy Joel, but dropping over two bills for Jess and I to go simply didn’t seem worth it.
After making that decision, I would have random pangs of guilt. I’ve always wanted to see him live, and I was passing on the option because it’s too expensive?
Eventually, however, my procrastination paid off. The arena released a number of cheap tickets in the nose-bleed section of the building for a scant $27 (again, plus fees) a piece. Well, now you’re talking my language. I jumped on the tickets without delay.
I’m sure the ticket prices had to do with the piss pour turnout at the show. The Statesman said there was 7,000 there and I think that would be a stretch. Kinda sad, really. This is a fickle town and won’t just shell out whatever it takes to see these performers. Hell, I’m one of those people. Without the cheap tix, I wouldn’t have been there either.
The show was last night. And it was a pretty damn good show.
He had no opening act, and his grand piano rose through the stage. He came out to a rousing applause and sat down to play “Angry Young Man” and “My Life”. He then did the requisite greeting of the crowd and talked about how it was his first time in Boise, even cracking a joke that he should have been here years ago when he was better. He then gave the audience the option of 2 songs, of which the overwhelming choice was “The Entertainer”.
When introducing “Just The Way You Are”, he mentioned that he wrote it back in the 70′s for his first ex-wife, or X-1 as he calls her. That amused me. Gonna have to remember that one. After he was done, he said, “well, it was true at the time I wrote it!”.
He played a little known song called “Zanzibar”, which he said wasn’t a hit, but “if you wanted just greatest hits you should go see Elton in Vegas” ( referring to Elton John’s current Las Vegas engagement). He got another laugh with that one.
After a number of piano based songs, “Allentown”, “New York State of Mind”, “Movin’ Out”, “She’s Always a Woman” and “River of Dreams” included, the piano sunk back into the stage and he stood out there with just a guitar. He said his long time guitar roadie was going to get up and do a song… a religious song we might know. His name is “Chainsaw”. Well, Chainsaw gets up there, and he certainly looked like a roadie, complete with gigantic gut spilling over his shorts. This “religious” song turned out to be a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” (see pic). That seriously got the place rocking. It was awesome, and really showed us just how good Billy’s backup band is. They really rocked on that one.
With the crowd now pumped up, he wailed into “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Big Shot”. He was all over the stage during those songs, really showing that at 58 he can still get around (despite the jokes he made throughout about getting older). During “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me”, he twirled and swung and tossed and shadow boxed his microphone stand while donning a Boise State cap. While, at times he looked a little goofy, you could tell he was having fun and was putting on a great show.
The piano came back up at this point, which he played “You May Be Right” and said goodnight. Of course, nobody actually thought that was the end of the show. In the post-show darkness, the crowd again went nuts, and in one of the neater odes to the 21st century, 3/4th of the people out there broke out their cell phones, and waved the lights around. It actually looks pretty cool when that many people do it.
He came back out and played “Only The Good Die Young” at which point we knew he STILL wasn’t done, because there was one song left to play.
Finally, he pulled out the neck-strapped harmonica and started the familiar start to his most famous hit. The crowd went nuts and he milked it before playing the song in earnest. Hearing “Piano Man” live was a great thing. He still has the pipes and can play the piano like no other. The singing of the crowd in the choruses even drowned him out, but he seemed to get a kick out of it.
With that, the show was over. To be perfectly honest, there was one thing that I was really happy with… the fact that not once did he break out that tired line that long time performers often do, the always snooze-inducing “and now, here is one from our latest album…” He knew what we were all there for, and he delivered.
All in all, he put on one hell of a show. However, at just shy of 2 hours, it wasn’t long enough. If I had paid full price for tickets, I might not have been pleased. But, at $27 it was a hell of an evenings entertainment.
I’m glad I finally saw him live.