Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Kind of Saxophone You Can Rollerblade To


Thursday, November 29th, 8:15pm. Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena. The lights dim, and a piano rises out of the floor of the stage. Sitting on a stool in front of it, playing those keys like nobody can, is the man himself. Billy Joel. In concert. And I was there.

I found out Billy Joel was touring while surfing the internet during Thanksgiving vacation. Out of curiosity alone, I clicked on a link to find out where he was touring. And he was in Boise and Salt Lake the next week. On complete impulse, at 1 in the morning, I texted my roomate Annie and friends Jesse and Kathleen, telling them that we HAD to go. By noon the next day we had tickets. Seats almost miles away, but Billy Joel for 60 bucks, 3 and a half hours from Rexburg? Ain't no way we're passing this opportunity up. (Tickets in row 8: $9000.00. Boggles the mind a bit, doesn't it?)

So Thursday afternoon, we hit the highway to Salt Lake. We got there about 3 hours before the concert started, so we had dinner at the Brazilian Grill "Rodizio's." It's the Salt Lake equivalent of Provo's "Tacano's" and its brilliant and possibly one of the most wonderful, unhealthy establishments in the world. You pay $20, go to the salad bar, get a few things to make yourself feel justified in the rest of your dinner. At your table, there's a little block of wood, one side green and one side red. When you have the green side up, people come by with enormous slabs of meat on sticks. I've never eaten so much meat in my life. The human body is not meant to digest meat in quantities that large. I must have eaten a pound or two of spicy chicken, marinated chicken, bacon-wrapped turkey, several types of was incredible.


But the word "incredible" doesn't even begin to describe the concert itself. I'll try to describe the glory of it bit by bit, though words hardly do it justice.

Billy Joel opened the concert with a great prelude number that medley'd into "Angry Young Man." First of all, his band was excellent and so together. Second of all, they had a kick-A light show going on, thanks to a top-notch roadie crew, which we'll talk about later. As soon as the lights came up on him and the music started, the crowd went nuts...on their feet, screaming and clapping. After the song was over, he made a little bit of an introduction, saying "I'm actually Billy's dad, Billy couldn't make it tonight." =) He may be old and what little hair he's got on his head is gray. But like he said, "It's not how much hair you have, it's how much head you get." (Please excuse me besmirching my blog with that quote, but I thought it was pretty funny, and very...Billy Joel. So did most of the audience. Those who didn't think it was hilarious just looked around and said "huh?")


He did this neat thing throughout the concert, due to the festive time of year. He would start a lot of songs as Christmas songs, and then medley into one of his own songs. I wish I could remember specifically which ones he did that with. Anyway, he did that. And it was neat. He played "My Life," "Everybody Loves You Now," and "The Entertainer." For the next song, he gave us a choice of 3 songs, and "Vienna" won by a land-slide. Which during the last severel months, has become a personal favorite of mine.

Joel then explained to the audience that he's always wanted to do a movie actually score it, but since no one's ever approached him, he decided to make one up. So he said he just sat down and wrote a completely historically inaccurate song called "Billy the Kid." ("Really, its totally inaccurate. If you really wanted, I could go through the lyrics and point out the places where I'm full of crap.") But it was a REALLY cool song. That was followed by "Allentown." Then he played a song I'd never heard before, but its become one of my new favorite Joel tunes..."Zanzibar," from the album 52nd Street. It's a really great song! Then came "New York State of Mind," and "Root Beer Rag." During that song, most of the people in the front several rows got up and started dancing, then crowded to the stage, where they remained for the rest of the concert. Joel did "Movin' Out" next, then "Innocent Man," "Don't Ask Me Why," "She's Always a Woman," "Faith," and "River of Dreams."

After those songs, Joel stood up and his piano sunk back into the floor, and someone handed him an electric guitar. He went up to the mic and said something to the effect of "We've got a member of our roadie crew who's a very talented man, he's been with us for many years. He's been working on this song for a long time, working really hard, so he'd like to come out and sing a song for you. It's kind of a religious song, and you can boo him off the stage if you want to, but give him a chance, he's been working really hard. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the stage 'Chainsaw.'" We all gave him an enthusiastic round of applause as he walked onstage and took the mic. He was this kind of baldish, slightly overweight guy with an old shirt and shorts...dressed like a roadie. But he took the mic and sang AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and ROCKED THE HOUSE. Joel accompanied on the guitar, and it was absolutely brill. Afterwards, we gave "Chainsaw" a huge standing ovation and he left the stage with an enormous new fan base. Check him out rocking the house:


"Chainsaw's" performance was the start of the POWER SET. Check it out:
"We Didn't Start the Fire"
"Big Shot"
"Still Rock N Roll to Me"
"You May Be Right"

During all of those songs, Joel was on the guitar, or just straight vocals. On "Still Rock N Roll to Me," he did all these cool mic stand stunts. It was kind of tongue in cheek, because he's almost 60 and was almost making fun of himself, but it was really cool. He got the stand spinning really fast, then spun it with one hand and threw it up in the air, dropping it almost to the ground and bringing it back up again to sing. It was fun. When he was at the piano, he wasn't exactly calm either. He sat on a drum stool, which was raised pretty high, so he was kind of halfway between sitting and standing. On the high energy songs, he would really rock literally be rocking back and forth and side to side on his seat. He was great. The star that he is, he could have called in that performance, could have just shown up as this washed up rocker singing the tunes that made him famous. But he didn't, and he wasn't. He was totally there, 100%, connecting to his audience and having a blast. Some people are brilliant musicians, but not very good "performers." Some people just don't have a good sense of how to put on a good show and connect with the audience and be unselfish. But Joel totally had it going on, and knew what he was doing and did it well. He was also really great at giving credit to his band, stepping aside and letting others solo and take the stage. There were some brilliantly talented musicians, and great solos.


After "You May Be Right," he and his band took their bows, waved good-bye and left the stage. And of course we didn't stand for that. We cheered and stomped and clapped and screamed for a full 2 minutes it seemed, until finally the piano rose up from the floor again and the lights came up on Billy Joel. He played "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," and it was wonderful, naturally. He took another bow and left the stage, but we still hadn't had enough, so we cheered and clapped some more, and he came out again and did "Only the Good Die Young." And it was wonderful. But as much as he might get sick of singing it at every concert, we weren't going to let him leave without doing "Piano Man." We encored him once more and finally he sat down at the piano and put on the harmonica. He played those first few notes and we went nuts. It was a great ending to the concert. The Thorsons and Annie and I all hugged eachother and swayed and sang along, just like the rest of the audience was doing. At one chorus, Joel and the band cut out and just had the entire audience sing. It was so cool, and a little surreal to be singing the words "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 feeling all right" directly to Billy Joel and the band. It was so fitting, and awesome.


All in all, an amazing experience. Worth missing class and work for, worth paying $60 for, worth the long drive(s) for. I give the concert 11 stars. Out of 5.

Top Ten Most Memorable Things About the Billy Joel concert trip:
10. The taste of grilled pineapple.
9. Those totally drunk, uncoordinated groupies who were in the front row and showing so much boobs I was surprised they weren't getting arrested. And of course the film crew filmed them lots and put lots of shots of Mount Inappropriate on the big screen. It was ridiculous. And funny. And we hoped that they tried to meet Billy Joel and that he totally rejected them.
8. The cute waiter at Rodizio's who I smiled at and who looked at me like I was totally crazy.
7. The drive to Salt Lake, listening to Billy Joel's greatest hits.
6. The drive home, listening to "Les Miserables." Which was a bit of a contrast, but we're theatre geeks, what can we say?
5. The whole bathroom thing. I'll just leave it at that, along with a reminder that the human body is not built to consume as much meat as we did in one sitting right before the concert.
4. Driving into Rexburg at 2 in the morning, and singing "Rock the Caspah," and changing the words over and over again like telephone until we were singing "Chase the Bastard." Don't ask me how we got there, I don't remember, but we sure thought we were funny.
3. The street sign we saw in residential neighborhood on our way to "Rodizio's" that just said "DEAF PERSONS." How cryptic.
2. Wandering around the mall for a few after eating and me leaning over the railing and accidentally dropping my mint out of my mouth, which fell down to the first floor and landed right next to a police officer.
1. The moment the lights went out and the music first started. I could hardly breathe. I don't think I did.

Here's us in the parking lot of the Energy Solutions Arena, minutes before finding our seats for the concert:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And I wanted to call you to find out how the concert went ... and I don't have to! I loved your description of it all. Thanks for sharing it, my sweet daughter!