Sing us a Song, Mr. Piano Man

By on February 7, 2014

(photo Frank Colucci)

Tampa, Fla.–The “Piano Man” made Florida his home January 7th through the 22nd with two shows in Sunrise, one in Tampa and finishing up with one in Jacksonville.  I was lucky enough to be at one of these four sold out nights on January 17th.  Friday’s Tampa date was at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and Billy rocked the house. Over 22,000 fans were in attendance; singing along during and after this amazing performance.

With no current material to promote and turning 65 in May, Billy Joel is celebrating 50 years in show business, and what an amazing career he has to show for it. Beginning with over 30 Top 40 hits, all written by him, Billy has been nominated for 23 Grammy Awards and has won 6. He has sold over 150 million records worldwide. Let’s also not forget being inducted into The Song Writers Hall of Fame (1992), The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (1999), The Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006), and last year Billy Joel received The Kennedy Center Honors. Not too shabby! Oh yeah, Billy also has a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. And these are only a few of his career highlights!

Originally I didn’t want to start off with a Billy Joel history lesson, but I grew up listening to this incredible musician and songwriter, so as I started gathering research before the show, I was blown away by what I was reading and felt it was important to include a few things.

Now on with the show!

This was my first time seeing Billy Joel live. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up listening with my parents. With that being said, Friday was extra special for me. Even though we didn’t sit together, my mother was also at the concert. The look of joy and excitement on her face both before and after the show was priceless. My dad passed away just over a year ago and I haven’t seen my mom this excited in a real long time. So thank you Billy for that 

The show was just under two hours. Billy sang 20 songs, 19 of which included him on the piano. He was dressed in a black suite, and played a jet black rotating piano and had a full band of guitars, drums and various brass instruments. The rotating piano was really cool. This was my first time at the Forum where they sold seats behind the stage. He didn’t play in the round, yet there were seats all around. So with the piano turning, it allowed everyone to see him sing and not stare at the back of his head.

The set started off with “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)” from the 1976 release, Turnstiles and then he followed it up with “Pressure,” the 1982 hit from the album The Nylon Curtain . Billy then addressed the crowd with a story about how it had been six years since he last played in Tampa. “I was with that other guy” said Billy (referring to his tour with Elton John). Then he goes on to thank his supporting act for the tour: Tom Odell (who also played piano and did a cover of Elton John’s Tiny Dancer.)  Billy said “I’m gonna keep Tom around for a while. He’s a lot cheaper than that other guy.” Billy not only delivered great stories in his songs but he also told a few stories between songs and cracked a few jokes here and there.

Not all of the evening’s set list was a Top 40 hit song, Billy mixed it up by throwing a few obscure curve balls like “Sleeping With The Television On,”  “Zanzibar,” and “Vienna.”  Billy chuckled and made a point of saying that “they can’t all be hit songs.”  The sold out crowd was beyond pleased to hear anything Billy wanted to sing, including some of the biggest songs in history like “My Life,” “Movin’ Out,” “Allentown,” “New York State of Mind,” “Don’t Ask Me Why,” and his signature classic from 1973, “Piano Man.”

The lights went out for a brief moment, with screams of “BILLY, BILLY, BILLY!” and “We love you Billy!” I even heard one group of girls scream “Will you marry me Billy?!”  Then the “Piano Man” returned to the stage and unleashed a four song encore that had every single person in the house up on their feet and moving (I wish I could have seen mom). First up was the hard rocking “Big Shot,” (No, no, no, no, no, no You had to be a big shot, didn’t cha?) Feel free to sing along!  Then for the first time of the evening, Billy stepped away from the piano and got everyone involved with “It’s Still Rock and  Roll To Me,”  (Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways, It’s still rock and roll to me!) Come on, you know you want to! Billy let the crowd sing a lot of this song.  It was really cool to see Billy front the stage the way he did; away from his instrument and rocking the microphone stand back and forth. The energy in the room was quite powerful. He then went back to the piano for the night’s final two songs: “You May Be Right,” and “Only the Good Die Young.”

What a fantastic night! For me it was definitely a trip down memory lane with visions of my parents singing in the kitchen with Billy Joel blaring out of the eight track player in the living room. Hopefully this music legend is not thinking about retiring any time soon because now I want more. Only the next time, mom and me are sitting together.

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