WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Wembley Stadium
SETLIST: Miami 2017; Angry Young Man; Just the Way You Are; The Entertainer; Zanzibar; My Life; Vienna; The Lion Sleeps Tonight; The Longest Time; Movin’ Out; Leningrad; Allentown; New York State Of Mind; Don’t Ask Me Why; Sometimes A Fantasy; Highway To Hell; We Didn’t Start The Fire; She’s Always A Woman; Keeping The Faith; The River Of Dreams; Nessun dorma; Scenes From An Italian Restaurant; Piano Man; Uptown Girl; It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me; Big Shot; Only The Good Die Young; You May Be Right.
Welcome to Billy Joel’s only UK gig of 2016 and his first concert on these shores since November 2013.
- Read on for the thoughts of someone who’s never listened to much Joel, until recently
As someone who’s dad’s approaching his 75th birthday, is a big Joel fan and has never seen him live, going to this gig with him pre-Christmas when the tickets went on sale seemed a great idea.
As the event neared, it dawned that growing up despite a sneaking regard for the pop classic that is Uptown Girl, we thought of Joel as the enemy when he was enjoying his imperial phase up against the likes of Wham!, Duran Duran and the Thompson Twins.
Yet for two-and-a-half hours the 67-year-old Joel entertains this crowd with barely a gimmick (bar a revolving piano and a comedy fly swat to take out the insects targeting him at this open-air gig) in sight.
Listening to the 28-song set, it’s clear there are many classics that we knew all the time (particularly the Barry White hit Joel penned Just the Way You Are, REM-influenced We Didn’t Start The Fire and joyous bar singalong Piano Man).
Occasionally the songs jar a little when they sound so much like carbon copies from the decades in which they first emerged, which is great if you loved them then, but does make for an evening a little over reliant on synthesisers and saxophones if you didn’t.
What’s welcome is the banter (including a little dig at rival Elton John) and the excerpts of classic songs from even further back than his heyday that clearly mean a great deal. We’re thinking specifically of The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night which completely overshadows the song it is meant to be embellishing.
The crowd certainly went home happy: singing acapella versions of their own of The Longest Time and Piano Man all the way back to Wembley Park station. And, in our case, even back on the Tube all the way to London Bridge.
Let’s hope he doesn’t leave it another three years before returning to London.