It was closing in on 8 o’clock and as usual at a concert; I am amazed by how empty the arena is when it’s less than 10 minutes to when the show is supposed to start. I once again say to the people I am with, “If I was an artist, I’d start right on time and screw ‘em if they aren’t in the arena on time.”
I said that at 7:58 p.m. and less than 30 seconds later at 7:59 a loud siren sound blasted through Target Center. The siren sounded like the beautiful beginning to ‘Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)’ and I was more than excited that Billy Joel was going to open the concert with one of my favorite tunes.
Then I was pointed to the video boards that are lifted high in the rafters and I see the words ‘Gavin DeGraw’ and instantly think Target Center screwed up since it only flashed that he would be opening up for Shania Twain later this summer on her comeback/farewell tour. The lights turned on and I saw a guy that I thought resembled a combined and diluted lovechild of Justin Timberlake, Jason Mraz and Michael Buble. My girlfriend then explained to me that Gavin DeGraw is someone I should probably know and ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ was mentioned.
DeGraw put on a good show, especially when you consider that over half of the arena had absolutely no clue who this guy was which DeGraw even mentioned. “You guys are probably looking up at me and wondering, ‘where the fuck is Billy?’ Well, I don’t know.”
Joel did show up. Big time.
Joel kicked off his show with ‘My Life’ which made me think of Chase credit cards, but it was also a great kickoff song. Although, looking through the set list, Joel and his kickass band could have gone in many directions with the opening song.
Hockey organists’ favorite song, ‘Pressure’, followed and then came the rocker ‘Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) before Joel let the crowd do a pair of fielder’s choices. Despite what the drunk guy a couple rows back from me thought, I loved Joel letting the crowd decide what should be played next. Sure, both of my picks were played, but it is easy crowd participation that makes you feel a part of the show.
I should also mention that ‘The Downeaster “Alexa”’ is such a good song. So good.
A couple other non-hits including ‘Vienna’ and ‘Zanzibar’, which shocks me since it’s such an up-tempo seemingly ready for radio song, but what do I know about the radio.
‘The Longest Time’ was immediately after which was another amazing example of how great Joel’s backing band is. To do an a capella piece in an arena is not the easiest feat in the world and the band pulled it off flawlessly. The band and the man can still sing.
Joel worried about being able to hit the high notes in ‘Innocent Man’ and he hit them as he sat twice as old as when he wrote the song. Joel mentioned the other piano man, Elton John, earlier in the concert which made for an easy comparison. John sings everything now about three octaves lower than he recorded them and Joel sounds like a record.
I could go in-depth about every single song Joel did last night, so I’ll just give a couple thoughts leading up to the encore.
- ‘New York State of Mind’ – another amazing example of the great band. The saxophone player was absolutely brilliant.
- ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ – there were huge video boards above the band that for most of the concert showed close-ups of Joel and the band, but it was really cool for ‘Fire’ because with everything Joel mentioned, an image of that would pop up onto the screen.
- ‘Scenes From An Italian Restaurant’ – I am a big Billy Joel fan, but I am a bigger Bruce Springsteen fan and last night it hit me that ‘Italian Restaurant’ is Joel’s ‘Incident on 57th Street’ into ‘Rosalita’. Think about it.
After ‘Italian Restaurant’, Joel strapped on a harmonica and broke into Minnesota-native Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, the second Minnesota artist that Joel covered with a short Prince cover in the early stages of the night which felt like years ago, in a good way.
The harmonica only meant one thing, ‘Piano Man’ which, of course, got the crowd all excited. The energy the crowd had throughout the night was fun even with the crowd sitting throughout much of the show. One of the very cool moments of the concert was Joel and the band stopping the music and letting the sold out Target Center sing the chorus back to them. There was a look on Joel’s face of just pure happiness.
‘Piano Man’ closed out the main set, but everybody knew that it wasn’t over. Billy Joel had built up the energy to a peak and had the crowd in his hand. As Joel walked off the stage, a lot of the crowd fired up the flashlights on their cellphones to light up the arena while making deafening noise. The flashlights during the encore break was something I had never seen before, but it was very cool.
I can’t say enough about the encore. Joel’s main set had some slow moments and some slower songs, but that’s because all of the huge rockers that Joel has was saved for the brilliant five song encore.
Let me just list off the songs that Joel played for his encore:
- ‘Uptown Girl’
- ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me’
- ‘Big Shot’
- ‘You May Be Right’
- ‘Only The Good Die Young’
That’s all a guy really needs. The energy pulsing throughout Target Center during the encore was palpable. It was what an encore should truly be, especially with the fact that all encores are pre-determined by almost every artist.
I liked to get rocked on my way out and Joel did just that. I think the only thing I would have did different was flip ‘You May Be Right’ and ‘Only The Good Die Young’, but I might be biased with my love of ‘You May Be Right’. The entertainer probably knows the best, though.
It all started at nine o’clock on a Saturday. There was no bread to put in any jar, but I was by the end I was saying, “Man, how am I even here?”