Friday night July 18, 2014 proves a historic night for Wrigley Field, Chicago. Billy Joel is the first and only artist so far to have headlined the historic ballpark more than once, the previous time being with Elton John in 2009. The great part of seeing Billy Joel on his own though is hearing him perform a full 2 hour set of all his greatest songs. Billy never likes to play the same exact setlist twice, which is great because it keeps every show fresh, exciting, and leaving the die-hard fans wanting even more. He shook things up right form the get-go, walking out on stage, strapping an electric guitar on, and opening the show up with “A Matter of Trust” his biggest hit from his 1986 album The Bridge. The energy continued to rise with the following two hits “Pressure” and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”. Before going into “Movin’ Out” he mentioned the last time he was at Wrigley was with that other guy (Elton John). He jokingly played “Your Song”, and in the middle of the first verse just halted saying “and all that bullsh*t”. The crowd got a good laugh out of that. Next came the biggest surprise and highlight for the crowd. He sang the title track of his 1983 album An Innocent Man. He had performed the song once so far this year at his last New York Madison Square Garden show, and before that he hadn’t performed the song since 2009. “An Innocent Man” accurately and faithfully demonstrates Joel’s supreme talent not merely as a pianist, but as a fine vocalist. You can’t help but feel goosebumps when he reaches for those high notes, hitting every one of them on point and on pitch without any fail or slip.
In keeping tradition with baseball parks, Billy led a crowd sing-a-long on “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” followed by his early minor hit “The Entertainer”. He then proceeded to give an audience choice between the songs “This Is The Time” and “Vienna”. Majority ruled and “Vienna” was performed (Personally, I was dying much more to hear him perform “This Is The Time”, but I love “Vienna” as well). The next song was probably Billy’s most popular album track, or at least his most favorite; a jazz oriented composition called “Zanzibar” that featured an incredible trumpet solo by Carl Fischer. Freddie Hubbard would be very proud.
We’ve now arrived to the part of the show where the tunes are getting more familiar with the audience. “New York State of Mind” was a great crowd pleaser and longtime band member saxist Mark Rivera really shined on this tune. The next song was another minor hit from the 1980 Glass Houses album called “Sometimes A Fantasy” followed by “Miami 2017 (See The Lights Go Out On Broadway). After that the hits follow one by one, one right after the other: “Allentown”, “She’s Always A Woman”, “My Life”, etc.
After “My Life”, Billy brought out his roadie Chainsaw to sing a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”, which had Billy on electric guitar once again, and the crowd absolutely loved it. It was a fun time.
The hits continued after that with “Don’t Ask Me Why”, “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” (alright it wasn’t a hit but Billy always performs it and it’s his most epic and widely acclaimed album track), “The River Of Dreams” (also containing a segment of Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town”), and the great crowd sing-a-long “Piano Man”.
He departed the stage for a couple of minutes and returned for a five song encore of hits, beginning with “Uptown Girl”, followed by “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me”, the latter which greatly demonstrates Billy’s showmanship, swinging the microphone stand around and throwing it up in the air (the microphone fell off a couple of times, but it didn’t matter too much; he was still on point). Next were his hits “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right”, bookended by his classic hit from The Stranger album “Only The Good Die Young”.
Now a few overall comments. He played all his greatest hits that everyone wanted to hear, except “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. He also did not perform “Just The Way You Are” or “Honesty”; but he did not need to perform those songs. He easily made due with many other great songs from his catalogue and the show was still phenomenal. As far as hits go, it’s 5 out of 5. For lesser known hits and albums tracks, I would give a 5 out of 5, because even though he didn’t perform “This Is The Time” or other greats like “I Go To Extremes” or “The Ballad of Billy The Kid”, he did perform “A Matter of Trust”, “Vienna”, “An Innocent Man” and “Sometimes A Fantasy”, and I was just as satisfied.
Billy Joel put on a hell of a show with great lighting and production. He is truly one of the greatest artists of all time and continues to retain his status as a great songwriter and true rock and roller.
Review: Luis Echeverria