Written by Brad
With the superb Santana concert still fresh in our minds, Donna and I headed west for the next stop on our summer concert series. On the 4-hour drive to Pittsburgh we listened to every Billy Joel CD I owned to prepare ourselves for the night ahead and refresh our memories with his library of music. Our expectations were riding high, as one of Donna’s friends had told us upon learning that we had tickets “Billy Joel never disappoints.”
Upon entering PNC Park, the anticipation was palpable, the entire venue buzzing with excitement. We had only been in our seats minutes when our “neighbors” began sharing their experiences from prior Billy Joel concerts, building a sense of community with strangers who would share our inaugural experience with The Piano Man.
The band took the stage a few minutes late, thankfully since we were late also, and launched right into “My Life” and “Pressure,” the piano rocking on the latter song. As Pressure ended, to thunderous applause, Billy addressed the crowd. “Good evening Pittsburgh, long time no see. I don’t have anything new, so we’re gonna do the same old shit.” Which was met with an even louder ovation.
There was just the right mix of banter and music. Before starting the next song, “The Entertainer,” Joel announced the title and that it was from the 1974 album Streetlife Serenade. When the crowd cheered, he laughed and responded “you don’t have that album. Nobody has that album. I don’t even have that album!”
The band was something to behold. While Joel is the focal point, each member of the band contributed to the dynamic show, effortlessly it seemed. Leading into the ballad “Just the Way You Are” he told the story of how Linda Ronstadt had to talk him into including the song on his album because he thought it was too much of a “chick song.” During the song thousands of phones lit the park as he sang his timeless love song, and then wisecracked upon the conclusion “then we got divorced.”
The set was the perfect mix of ballads, rockers, and deep cuts. Timeless songs from the ultimate storyteller. His fingers nimbly tickled the ivories, seemingly floating over the keys, his voice still full of youthful vigor and full of range. Sax player Mark Rivera was outstanding, belting out solos on “Only the Good Die Young” and “New York State of Mind.” Trumpeter Carl Fisher has an awe-inspiring solo on “Zanzibar” and guitarist Mike DelGuidice astounded everyone singing a Puccini aria, “Nessun Dorma,” to lead into a powerful performance of “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” just as the full moon was rising above the city skyline, only adding to the flawless night.
Finally, Billy strapped on the harmonica, and everyone roared their approval, young and old alike, knowing what was next. As the familiar tune of “The Piano Man” filled the air, everyone swooned as he sang. It was a night beyond compare. And when he turned away from the piano and urged everyone to sing the chorus, 40,000 voices filled the night:
Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright
That certainly was the case. It was a night we will never forget. The night was the soundtrack of our life, marking time through the years. We laughed, cheered, danced, and sang…and forgot about life for awhile. Billy, we love you just the way you are, and the same old shit was just perfect.