alternate title: "I saw Billy Joel play the piano with his butt". But let's be classy, this is a family blog...
For Christmas I gave Dan tickets to see Billy Joel last night (Feb 23) in concert at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. We've been to JPJA - or "The Jack," as C'ville locals call it - three times now since it opened last year but this was our first "real" concert there (first two: The Wiggles (rocked) and Ringling Bros (sucked). After this experience, I have to say, two thumbs way up to Charlottesville for their entry into the major concert business. And another two for William Martin "Billy" Joel, who, as he closes in on his 58th birthday, is still relevant and rockin' in the fourth decade of his solo career. It's always fun to see somebody perform whose music you've enjoyed over several decades, but often there's a feeling that these old guys are lamely clinging to the past, trotting out hits from eras gone by. Not so with this guy, despite his having joked after the opening performance of "Angry Young Man" that he is Billy's dad, warming up the crowd for young Billy. His voice is still amazing and oh my goodness, what he can do at the keyboard with his stubby fingers gives hope to pianists everywhere. I was also impressed by what an affable guy he seems to be, self-deprecating, clearly remarkably famous but still a working-class guy at heart - or as much as one can be after decades of celebrity.
Dan and I are going to try to put together a set list later, although I'm dubious about my ability to do so, since I have a raging head cold / sinus infection. The set was something like this one or this one - the general order is right, sub in and out a few. Dan was happy that there were a couple of selections from Turnstiles. I was happy that he played "She's Always a Woman To Me" although disappointed that he didn't perform "And So It Goes". I'm a cheesy fan, what can I say. I forgot early in the concert that my camera has video capability (d'oh!) but got some clips later, including bits of "Only the Good Die Young" and his final encore, "Piano Man". Note some goofing at the beginning of "Piano Man". The man is a ham. I ran out of memory on my card or I would have recorded all of that last song. There was this moment where the whole arena was singing along and that was cool, to think that this song has endured nearly 25 years and that its fans span generations, from those older than Mr. Joel down to college students (some of whom you can see swaying in my clips) and even high school students (our babysitter was JEALOUS that we were going, can you imagine?). It was a nice note on which to end the concert.
All the pics on this thread are from my Canon A620 - blurry and cropped but not bad considering that we were way back in 304 M 1 & 2. The close-ups are from the jumbotron.
Oh, the butt thing. He seriously did play the piano with his hindquarters. And his foot. "Go To Extremes," indeed.
I thought I had heard that Sean and Jessa would be there, too, and texted them. Sean got the text at the end of the concert. We had to hustle back to Richmond to take our sitter home (paying for 7 hours, yikes!) so we didn't get to hook up with them, but I was pleased nevertheless to touch base and to confirm the successful sending of what was only my second text message ever: "R u at JPJA". Turns out they were in 306, not too far from us.
He did a lovely brief little rendition of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" sans lyrics, and also included a performance by his roadie "Chainsaw" of AC/DC's old hit "Highway to Hell," which is apparently a staple of his concerts. There had been several mentions of The Roanoke Times "and, um, head, uh, bang" and Billy dedicated the decidedly headbanging Highway to the Times, causing us to wonder what they had printed. Turns out their "Thursday Short List" for this week snarked about Joel:
Aww, yeah. The Piano Man will ROCK you. With his, uh, hard-driving, um, head-banging piano.
Nice. And so appropriate for a community newspaper. Now, I'm sure having sold over 100 million records worldwide takes a little of the sting out of a comment like that. But I wonder, does it still hurt at all? And is it easier to take when some cretin shouts "Billy Joel SUCKS!" than when some wannabe member of the cultural elite takes a condescending tone regarding your work? At any rate, I hope that the comment's author, Ms. Tammera Gaskin, appreciates the dedication.
As for us, I'm dedicating this post to my friend, Sandy, later known as Cat, who fostered my early love of Billy Joel by giving me a taped copy of his greatest hits for my 16th birthday, along with a claddagh ring. I still have the ring, and the tape, but I no longer have my friend; Cat died suddenly and unexpectedly in November 2005. We had not been in touch for a long time, something which I deeply regret. I have a really happy memory of riding in her car with her while she sang along to her own copy of the tape, completely off-key and missing half the lyrics. I think if she had been alive, she would have been there last night - and maybe, in a way, she was.