Orlando, Fl February 10, 2007
by Jen Cray
It matters not that Billy Joel released his first album in 1971, when the Piano Man tours, he sells venues out. On this, his first Elton John-less tour in years, 16,000 fans from several generations filled up Orlando's Amway Arena for a demonstration of how a master makes a large arena feel intimate. There was no opening act, just two hours-plus of the man whose name shined on the marquee.
"Hi, I'm Billy's dad. Billy'll be out later," the singer joked after first appearing at his piano (which dramatically was raised from beneath the stage). It was one of many playfully self-deprecating jabs he took at himself, referencing his mostly bald head and gray goatee, and even his recent drunk driving conviction.
"I'm glad you all came out... Now I can pay my car insurance."
He jokes with the audience as an old friend would. What else does this old friend do for his "friends?" He buys up the first several rows, in front of the barricade-less stage, to give away to those stuck in the nosebleed seats. Crew members are given handfuls of these prime tickets, before the show, and sent up into the rafters to find those deserving souls who would count their lucky stars to be sitting in the front row. Not only does this satisfy these people who buy the albums and come out to the shows, but it's also a nice big "fuck you!" to scalpers and Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam, take note.
I stood witness to only the first trio of songs (SOLDOUT, I say! Very soldout!) which were "Angry Young Man," "My Life" (I was personally satisfied with just being able to hear this tune which always brings me back to my childhood years watching Bosom Buddies!), and "Everybody Love You Now." From that snippet of the evening I can tell you that Billy Joel has aged like a fine wine, and those songs will never tire.
He played for over two hours without intermission, and in the generous setlist were all the old favorites, as well as the obligatory "Piano Man" encore. I may not have seen the whole shebang, but 15 minutes of Billy Joel is better than no Billy Joel at all.