“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man, sing us a song tonight. For we’re all in the mood for a melody, and you’ve got us feelin’ alright.”
The piano man himself visited Pittsburgh for the first time in six years on Feb. 21. The 64-year-old musician, accompanied with his bands of drummers, guitarists, trumpeters and saxophonists, performed to a sold-out crowd at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Though Billy Joel had been on a hiatus from performing, the benefit concert following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 drew him out and back to the city that he loved: New York. He’s even launched a campaign to perform at the coveted Madison Square Garden once a month.
The evening began with opener Gavin DeGraw, preparing the audience with hits “I Don’t Want To Be” and “Not Over You.” He said he knew he wanted to be a performer after being to a Billy Joel concert at the age of 15.
The lights dimmed, the crowd roared and the band took the stage as the tinkling strains of “Miami 2017” began. Joel awed the crowd, performing flashbacks like “The Entertainer” and synth rock single “Pressure” while working in rarely toured gems like “Captain Jack” and “Sometimes A Fantasy.”
The two-hour concert showcased one of the greatest pianists and musicians of all time. Joel puts most others in the industry to shame with his passionate performances and undeniable talent. His fingers flew over the ivory keys as hit after hit was performed and echoed by the lively crowd.
Mounted on a rotating platform, Joel and his grand piano were the center of attention. He often played the piano riff in “Layla” as the years seemed to melt away, saying, “I didn’t write that. But I wish to hell I had.”
The Friday night audience was particularly enthusiastic about Pennsylvania-based hit “Allentown,” “New York State of Mind” and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.” But nothing could compare to the sound of over 18,000 people singing “Piano Man” and the applause that followed.
The crowd was ready for more as he took the stage again for a 5-song encore, going back to well-known hits like “Uptown Girl,” “Only The Good Die Young” and “Big Shot.”
Throughout the show, Joel often coated his throat with a spray he called the entertainer’s secret, saying, “I saw Ted Nugent using it once. It really didn’t make him sound any better.” Joel proved that age really is just a number as he continued to hit the notes his 1970s self once orchestrated.
I have been to a lot of concerts and have seen a lot of performers, but this Billy Joel tour has to take the medal for one of the best I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just a concert—it was an experience, transporting you back to the more passionate, edgier, simpler days of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Concert tee from roadside vendor: $10.00, ticket: $63.00 and arena food: $24.00. Seeing one of the greatest musicians of our time live: priceless.