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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 27, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 22
Billy Joel hits it out of the ballpark at Safeco Field
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Billy Joel hits it out of the ballpark at Safeco Field

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

BILLY JOEL
SAFECO FIELD
May 20


'It's all old shit, I don't have any new stuff,' Billy Joel told everyone about 15 minutes into his set at Safeco Field last weekend, playing to a capacity crowd.

He was right. If the legendary singer-songwriter has released any new material in recent years, we heard none of it Friday night as he performed an open-air concert under mostly clear skies at the baseball stadium. Joel delivered hit after hit for over two hours, all plucked from his catalog that stretches back to 1971, in his first Seattle show in six years. Previously, he'd joined Elton John at Key Arena for two performances during the 'Face to Face 2010' tour.

The concert began promptly at 9 p.m. with Joel sitting at a piano positioned in the middle of the stage and playing the opening notes of 'Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),' a track that despite its title originally appeared on his 1976 album, Turnstiles. The mood went from mellow to festive very quickly when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Kennedy Center Honors inductee reeled off the second number, 'Pressure,' from his double-platinum recording The Nylon Curtain.

'Good evening to you, Seattle,' said Joel to thousands of fans up in the stands and some seated on the field. 'Long time, no see.' He continued interacting with the audience, recalling his first appearance in the Emerald City in the 1970s at a place called the Fresh Air Tavern, which he described as a 'dump.'

From his third studio album, 1974's Streetlife Serenade, Joel pulled out 'The Entertainer' and then allowed the crowd to choose between two songs, 'Summer, Highland Falls' or 'Vienna'; the latter earned a more enthusiastic response, and he sang it beautifully as images of buildings, streets and landmarks of the European city flashed on overhead LED screens.

Supported by a full band that took up the entire stage, Joel mostly sat at the piano - because that's what he does - that rotated 360-degrees on a platform, letting the pop-rock icon face various sides of the sports venue, which has hosted less than a handful of music events in its history.

After a terrific rendition of 'Movin' Out (Anthony's Song),' complete with real time images of Joel tapping away on the piano displayed on the raised screens, concertgoers were offered another choice of two songs, 'An Innocent Man' or 'The Longest Time'; the latter number won out and Joel intro'd the 1984 hit with a snippet of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight.'

Aerial shots of the Big Apple's skyline were shown in the background as Joel performed a captivating version of 'New York State of Mind,' while black and white images of industrial workers were pieced together in a slideshow during 'Allentown.' A brief sample of 'Ode to Joy' served as an intro for 'My Life,' which everyone sang along to, and then Joel delighted the audience with a trio of huge fan favorites, 'Sometimes a Fantasy,' 'She's Always a Woman' and 'Don't Ask Me Why.'

The first of two short breaks Joel took was when a member of his road crew, named 'Chainsaw,' jumped on stage and belted out a decent cover of AC/DC's 'Highway to Hell.'

A series of burning flames were the backdrop for 'We Didn't Start the Fire,' followed by 'The River of Dreams' that began with Joel and his band playing about a minute's worth of Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze.' 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant' and Joel's signature 'Piano Man' closed out the main set. During 'Piano Man,' many grown men throughout the stadium put their arms around each other and swayed side-to-side, while singing along happily and loudly. Through the years, it's become the equivalent of a beloved English pub song.

'Thank you, Seattle! You rock!' Joel yelled out before slipping away backstage. A few minutes later, he returned for a whopping five-song encore.

Although he admitted to 'Uptown Girl' ripping his 'throat apart,' it didn't stop him from performing it. Joel abandoned his piano for the '80s classic, standing and singing it at the foot of the stage. His vocals suffered slightly during 'It's Still Rock and Roll to Me,' but in his defense he'd been singing nearly non-stop for more than two hours. And just when you thought Joel was going to pack it in for the night, he unleashed two more hits, 'Big Shot' and 'You May Be Right'; everybody, of course, was on their feet.

A vibrant, swingy rendition of 'Only the Good Die Young' capped the show, which was definitely one for the record books.

If Billy Joel isn't yet crossed off your bucket list, you missed a golden opportunity to do so at Safeco Field. He's noticeably aged - bald, salt and pepper goatee, crow's feet - but musically, he sounds incredible and has only gotten better with time.

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