Monday, February 10, 2014

Billy Joel rocks Raleigh with hits, deep cuts

The Piano Man himself, Billy Joel, returned to the Triangle on Sunday night for a much hyped show that surpassed expectations and made good on Joel's promise to dig deep into his catalog on this tour.

The packed PNC Center erupted when Joel took the stage and launched into the classic "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)." The electricity continued into the synth rocker "Pressure" and then the first curve ball of the night appeared. The deep cut "Sometimes a Fantasy" from the album Glass Houses was the third song in the set and quickly became one of the best songs of the night. Joel had said in an interview last year that when he toured again he didn't want to simply play greatest hits sets and this was the first song of the night that showed he wasn't kidding.

In addition to deep cuts, Joel acknowledged The Beatles 50th anniversary of appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show by pulling out Beatles songs throughout the night including "Can't Buy Me Love," a bit of "The Night Before," "A Hard Day's Night" in the middle of "The River of Dreams," and "She Loves You" in the encore. He emphatically stood and pointed to a Beatles button on his lapel as he finished "Can't Buy Me Love."

Billy Joel commanded the stage throughout the night and his voice sound fantastic. He joked throughout the night about a spray lubricant that he uses on his throat and how he saw Madonna using it once though it didn't seem to help her. He used it before belting out the classic "Uptown Girl," which he claimed he hadn't played in the U.S. since the 80s but a quick search proved that not be the case.

It was a killer addition in the set and it was the first time he'd played it on this tour. He said many assume he doesn't play the song often due to "personal reasons" (the song was inspired by his exes Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley) but it's actually because it kills his throat. Either way the crowd was thrilled and after a roaring applause Joel almost seemed dumbfounded. "Really? Really. Shit," he said. "Now I'm gonna have to do it all the time."

Other deep cuts sprinkled throughout the set included the funky "Zanzibar," the somber "Where's the Orchestra," and a song he described as Beatlesque, the Nylon Curtain cut "A Room of Our Own."

A Billy Joel show wouldn't be complete without the epic "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," which electrified the crowd. And then after a brief bit of the outro of Eric Clapton's "Layla," Joel, harmonica holder in place, launched into the obligatory "Piano Man" which, as expected, turned into a giant singalong.

Joel and the band didn't disappear for long before returning for a hit-packed encore of "We Didn't Start the Fire," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," complete with some killer mic stand moves, "She Loves You," "You May Be Right," and "Only the Good Die Young."

Billy Joel first proved to the world that he's still got that old magic when he performed a short set at the 12-12-12 Hurricane Sandy benefit back in 2012 and his current tour has proven that at 64 years old he's as good as ever. If this ends up being Joel's last show in the Triangle, it certainly was a hell of a way to go out.

Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw opened the show with a short set including his old hits "Chariot" and "I Don't Want to Be" as well as songs from his new album and a cover of Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" for a receptive crowd. He commanded the big room surprisingly well and made for a nice opener for Joel.

Billy Joel set list
Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
Sometimes a Fantasy
Can't Buy Me Love
Summer, Highland Falls
Where's the Orchestra?
A Room of Our Own
The Night Before (snippet)
Uptown Girl
Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
Your Song (snippet)
She's Always a Woman
The Entertainer
Don't Ask Me Why
The River of Dreams
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
Layla outro (snippet)
Piano Man
We Didn't Start the Fire
It's Still Rock and Roll to Me
She Loves You
You May Be Right
Only the Good Die Young

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