14 September 2019 (gig)
16 September 2019
For the sixth year in a row, Billy Joel played to a sold-out crowd at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts (on Saturday September 14, 2019). A cloudy sky (at the beginning of the show) and a looming threat of rain all night (it did sprinkle a bit later in the show) did nothing to dampen the elation that Joel's now annual event brings to one of the most famous baseball parks in the world.
Always a dapper dresser (or, as he would say, a "Beau Brummel"), Joel was decked out in a stylish black suit and had his now familiar fly swatter in hand. Joel began his near-three-hour marathon (while playing an electric guitar) with "A Matter of Trust," and took his seat at the piano for his 1982 ode to anxiety disorder with the brilliant "Pressure."
Harking back to 1974, "The Entertainer," from the "Streetlife Serenade" record, which Joel jokingly stated was "a bomb," led into a convivial rendition of "Vienna," the first of five songs he would lift from the iconic "The Stranger" disc during the night. In a cool nod to the city and the classic rock band, Boston, Joel led the band on a short version of "More Than a Feeling," which featured guitarist Michael DelGuidice on lead vocals (DelGuidice would later really get to show off his amazing vocal skills with "Nessun dorma" from the opera, "Turandot").
The radio staple, "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," was sandwiched in between two album cuts, "The Ballad of Billy the Kid" and "Sleeping with the Television On" (an underrated treasure from the "Glass Houses" LP), before Joel doled out another deep track in "The Downeaster Alexa."
In the wake of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, "New York State of Mind," was extra emotional, while the plight of the Philadelphia steel mill workers still resonates painfully well on the stellar, "Allentown."
Joel was in a Beatles-loving mood this night, as he celebrated his fondness for the Fab Four with covers of "I Feel Fine" and, later on in the set, "A Hard Days Night."
The Latin percussion-filled gem, "Don't Ask Me Why," ran into "My Life" (which Joel had fun reworking the beginning of the song, before tearing into the tunes' familiar starting point). Two totally different tales from "The Stranger" were explored back to back with the atmospheric, "She's Always a Woman," (where the muse of the song is referred to as one who would coldly "carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding"), while the irresistible, "Only the Good Die Young," explores a virginal lass (who is trying to be - not so subtly - convinced to give up her innocence to the song's protagonist), whose days of purity are no doubt coming to an end.
The set ended with the epic, "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," and the iconic, "Piano Man," (and being that this was a Saturday night, Joel did not have to amend the songs original lyrics, as he often does) and returned for a five-song encore blitzkrieg with "We Didn't Start the Fire" (where Joel shows off his ability to make learning historical facts fun), the Four-Seasons-inspired "Uptown Girl," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," (a massive smash that Joel released in the midst of, and as a perfect response to, the New Wave-era musicians of the day), "Big Shot," Joels picture-perfect tale of 1970's excess (and one can just close your eyes and picture a hedonistic night at Studio 54 at the club's peak, while the song plays), and ended a superb concert with his stellar ode to rambunctiousness, "You May Be Right."
What is so special about Joel is that he truly enjoys performing and his exuberance and glee rubs off on the crowd. Joel has not released any new Pop-related material (as he hysterically stated early on in the show; “I don’t have anything new for you...the same old s**t.") since 1993. But since he created a catalogue that many other musicians would sell their souls for, there is no need for him to ever enter a studio again. Joels repertoire is so quintessential it will easily keep Fenway Park sold-out annually, as his concerts are the centerpiece of the Boston summer concert scene.