Billy Joel doesn’t give a shit. He doesn’t feel the need to record new music. He doesn’t feel the need to “impress” anyone anymore. The only thing he feels the need to do is perform, and he did his best “Energizer Bunny” routine in a sellout show at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL on February 7.
The arena was abuzz with the second stop by Joel in as many years at Amalie Arena (normally Joel will rotate between the main Tampa concert arena and Orlando’s Amway Center) and the “Piano Man” heightened the anticipation with a bit of a late start. Originally scheduled for 8PM, the show actually went off about a half-hour behind schedule. Once it began, however, Joel took the audience on a slightly longer than two-hour ride of a lifetime through his greatest hits (and some deeper cut gems).
Joel has been quite honest about his feelings regarding the current holder of the office of POTUS (and politics in general) and it was entirely predictable that, after the acquittal earlier in the week, Joel wanted to make a statement. He did just that with “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” getting asses out of the seats from the start while Joel himself grabbed a guitar and hammered out the tune rather than his normal seat behind a baby grand.
From there, Joel took the audience on a tour of his 20 year recording history (and it is surprising that is the extent of it – from 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor to 1993’s The River of Dreams, it seems like the Joel Era went on longer than that). Along the way Joel reflected on his advancing age (“I just turned 70…FUCK, that’s old!”), the fact that he was feeling a bit under the weather (but fought through it) and kept the audience enthralled with his recollections of how some of the most memorable music in the history of rock came about.
Joel wasn’t above poking some fun at himself, either. At one point, he gave the audience the option of two songs. One was the FM-radio staple “Just the Way You Are,” while the other was the deeper cut from the same The Stranger album “Vienna.” When the crowd reaction overwhelmingly went with the deep cut, Joel seemed relieved in commenting, “I’m glad you chose that. I feel like such a hypocrite” – an unspoken nod to his multiple marriages – “when I play ‘those’ songs!”
To say that Joel is still the 1980s prime Joel would be a false statement. He’s lost just a touch off the fastball, but he is such a consummate performer that he is able to make it work. He also has surrounded himself with arguably the best “road band” that you could have, with music director/keyboardist Dave Rosenthal, guitarist Mike DelGiudice (who provided Joel with a break in performing an absolutely stunning classical vocal piece), percussionist Crystal Taliefero and saxophonist Mark Rivera (prowling the stage with his sizzling work) being the highlights of the show. But, compared to others from “his era” (including Roger Daltrey, Paul Simon and Bob Seger), Joel is taking care of his vocal instrument and can still bring it when he needs it.
That’s a good thing because Joel is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He loves getting in front of fans and playing his songs (he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Mikael Wood that what he does today “isn’t touring. “Touring is when you go out and you stay out,” Joel said in that 2017 interview. “You miss your family; it goes on and on and on and on. Now I play and then I go home. It’s a pussycat schedule.”) and he enjoys not having the pressures of having to come up with new material, satisfying record companies and the fickle fates of the consuming audience. Billy Joel doesn’t give a shit about those things anymore – and his fans are the beneficiaries when he comes to town.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire”
“Summer Highland Falls”
“Don’t Ask Me Why”
“The Downeaster Alexa”
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood”
“New York State of Mind”
“She’s Always a Woman”
“I Feel Fine” (Beatles cover)
“Just a Fantasy”
“Only the Good Die Young”
“The River of Dreams” (interspersed with ZZ Top’s “Tush”)
“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”
“It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”
“You May Be Right” (interspersed with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”)