WEMBLEY STADIUM 10 SEPTEMBER 2016
I’ve been a fan of Billy Joel’s since around 1982, and although I’ve seen him quite a few times, I was still very excited to see him this time around. Was it really 22 years ago since I last saw him? The lights went down at exactly 8pm, and Billy Joel was on stage at 8:02.
The evening started with Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway. This guy, this 67-year-old guy, sounded amazing right from the start. His voice was incredibly powerful and echoed around Wembley Stadium. That piano….that voice! What a fantastic start!
Billy and his band went straight into Angry Young Man, which highlights his incredible piano skills from start to finish.
“Good evening London!” He mentioned that his piano could move from side to side, but
“I don’t have anything new for you. Just the same old shit!” “The first time we played London, we played at the Drury Lane Theatre, with 50 people. And now, I’m at this freakin’ stadium. You should have seen me back then, I was something!”
He then gave the crowd a choice of two songs (he did this a few times during the show), both from The Stranger album (1977). Either The Stranger or “This was a hit by someone else first… Just The Way You Are.” You know what the people wanted, right? Stunning, just stunning! (I still prefer Billy Joel’s version!)
Then some cool, fun impersonations from the piano man. He spoke about Elton John – ”We don’t have much money?” “Who’s he kidding, don’t have much money!” Billy mentioned that he had to cancel a tour with Elton due to illness, and thought no-one would turn up tonight. Ha ha ha! Who’s HE kidding?
Ever the great crowd teaser, he then wanted to dedicate the next track to Donald Trump. Boos came from the crowd. He retorted “I never said I was going to vote for him. I just said this song was dedicated to him!” Then played The Entertainer!
He played songs that weren’t hits, allowing the audience to choose between pairs of songs; and played some that were major hits! Zanzibar was up next.
There was never a dull moment at this gig. Not one. Always expect the unexpected at a Billy Joel concert. So then we had Rule Britannia ringing out around the stadium. It almost felt like we were at a football match – only there was no fighting here!
We were treated to song after song, whether a hit or not, they were all brilliant!
The Lion Sleeps Tonight! Yes, you know how that one goes, ‘a whim a way, a whim a way’. Again, the entire stadium was involved. This led straight onto For The Longest Time, which has an amazing range of vocals from the entire band and is pure perfection. Straight into Movin’ Out, So It Goes, Allentown, New York State of Mind. All these songs sounded just as great as the first time I’d heard them!
Mark Rivera was introduced on saxophone – he’s probably the longest serving member of the Billy Joel Band, and still sounds great.
A few more impersonations, Joe Cocker (A Little Help From My Friends), then Mick Jagger “I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be….”, and then the very popular track Don’t ask me why’.
Not wanting to leave anyone out, Billy Joel brought out his guitar tech of 30 something years, Chainsaw (what a cool name!) who sang ACDC’s Highway to Hell! Very entertaining, and with Billy on guitar too!
We Didn’t Start The Fire – very clever song. I’ve always loved the lyrics to this. I was out of breath by the end of this one. Well, there are a lot of words to remember! More fantastic tunes: She’s Always a Woman and Keeping the Faith
Billy thanked England for sending over so much music, especially when he was growing up. “It was very inspiring.”
River of Dreams – everyone started singing along…when…what? Hard Day’s Night?! Pure genius. I loved the intermingling of songs. “You know I feel alright………In the Middle of the Night, I go walking…..” Timing was perfection!
Then we were in for a totally unexpected treat. OMG (and I never say that, never, but this is an exception) OMG (sorry it had to be said again). Mike DelGuidice, Billy Joel’s guitarist and backing singer sang Nessun Dorma in the most stunning voice I’ve ever heard at a gig (apart from Billy’s of course!) It was simply mesmerizing. For the first time at a show in a very long time, people weren’t talking. They were actually watching and listening to this most amazing singer. Absolutely breathtaking.
One of my favourites Italian Restaurant was a blend of piano, saxophone, trumpets and guitars at their finest.
Finally, Billy Joel on the harmonica could only mean one thing, Piano Man. His voice echoed around the stadium along with the 75,000+ other voices. At this point, I think I’ve used the word amazing far too much, but it really was an AMAZING experience.
Billy and the band left the stage. I knew he’d be back, so writing finally in the previous paragraph was a bit misleading. The clapping didn’t stop, nor did it slow down. And sure enough just a couple of minutes later, the incredible Billy Joel with his brilliant band (see I’ve changed the adjectives now!) came back on.
Uptown Girl got quite a few people out of their seats (so grateful for some of the people in our block not blocking my view, as being only 5’ tall, I have problems seeing through anyone taller than me!)
Still Rock n Roll To Me, Only The Good Die Young and You May Be Right (with a little bit of Led Zeppelin added into the mix), meant, very few people were seated now (thanks again to those around me!)
“Thank you London!”
And that was it. Two and a half hours of the finest music had finished.
As I look back on this gig, it was hard to believe that the very first time I saw Billy Joel at Wembley Arena was in 1984 with my then-4 year old son, Nick. I also went along to Billy’s next gig the following night, which was recorded for BBC. I’d recorded it (and still have the VHS) and played it over and over again. There is virtually no difference in BJ’s voice 32 years later. Incredible. The band, although changed over time, (with the exception of Mark Rivera) have the same perfect sound. OK there was no jumping off stage, or off the piano, but hey, Billy Joel still rocks my world!