Billy Joel came to town at the weekend, and Eileen, Kelvin, Mena and I went along (you didn’t think Orlando came with us, did you?).
The Rod Laver Arena was full: fifteen thousand fans, some of whom have been coming to see Billy Joel perform here for over thirty years.
The concert was fantastic. From the moment the grand piano rose from the belly of the stage he had our complete attention. He played for a solid two hours, hit after hit, jumping from the nineties to the seventies and back again.
He engaged with the people in the “bad” seats behind him, and those in the cheap seats right at the back of the auditorium. He gave the audience the choice of what he would play next.
But most of all he played and sang and entertained. His voice was strong, his backing group awesome, and the light display theatrical. Highlights for me included Allentown, My Life and Movin’ Out. He didn’t get to play some of my other favourites, but he had so much to choose from.
In a surprise performance, the lead singer of AC/DC joined him on stage (introduced as a guitar roadie getting his first break) and belted out Highway to Hell. The Aussie crowd bellowed its appreciation as Joel took his guitar to the back platform of the stage and did his best impersonation of Angus Young, AC/DC’s school-boy lead guitarist.
New York State of Mind was a poignant but powerful memory of the time he performed that song with the helmet of a fallen firefighter on his piano, days after the World Trade Centre attacks.
For me, the pinnacle had to be his final encore – the song we’d been waiting for all night. As he placed the harmonica holder over his head the crowd cheered in anticipation, and the first notes of Piano Man were heard. Fifteen thousand fans sang quietly along with him. word perfect through the first verse. It was just a man and his piano, and he held us all in the palm of his hand.