Written by Dave Clements

ImageAs we were driving to Dallas to see and photograph Billy Joel for the first time I was wondering how things were going to turn out. This was our first opportunity to experience the American Airlines Center venue.  It was 40 degrees, windy, and raining.  We didn’t know the staff or where to park.  Worrisome thoughts were going through my head, wondering if this whole thing was going to turn out like the weather…cold and uninviting?

Not long after we pulled off the interstate into downtown Dallas, though, things started looking up and quickly became very warm and inviting!  We had found American Airlines Center, step one, the signage was good and we went directly to the parking lot we were instructed to find…imagine that!  And as I’m staring at a big ole sign that said Event Parking $20, an attendant came up to our window.  I mentioned my name, she quickly checked her media list, smiled and said ‘thank you Mr. Clements, hope you have a good evening’.

Once out of our car we found ourselves just a very few yards away from the Media Entrance and it just kept getting better as the night unfolded.  Our hosts were so pleasant and accommodating.  They let me go look where I’d be photographing from so I could get the correct equipment.  They seemed interested in my book project and glad that we had come up for the show. Thanks to you Eric and Melissa…. you helped to make the evening such a wonderful experience… and I hadn’t even seen Billy Joel yet!

We did have last minute seats at a sold out show and given all the possibilities they were quite fine and the sound pretty darn good, even though we were behind the stage.

All in all, a bargain at twice the price!

ImageJamie Cullum, a Brit, opened the show.  Although I hadn’t heard of him before within moments I was wishing I had.  It wasn’t hard to understand why he was invited to open.  His sound and Joel’s are a good fit.  He was mainly at his piano but was also at the front mic making sure the crowd was getting warmed up…the job he was hired to do.  I thought he did it well and suggest you check him out at www.JamieCullum.com.

Although Billy wasn’t scheduled to come out until nine pm he was out early ready to get this show going.  And going it got.

It was a surprise to me when, rather than head straight to his piano, he strapped on his guitar.  I had no idea that would happen. Do I have the right Billy Joel?

Yes I did and that became crystal clear as soon as the lights went down.  When Joel headed to his black grand piano he was styling in his well-tailored dark suit and tie.  He looked darn good especially for someone who’d been entertaining us for decades!  Still he looked up at the Jumbotron and declared to the sold out crowd, “Billy Joel couldn’t make it tonight so he sent me, I’m his Dad!’   Billy, we’re all getting older and eleven out of ten times in my judgment it beats the alternative.

Billy stayed well engaged with the audience throughout the night asking for us to decide ‘his next song’ via audience reaction to his multiple choices.  The first time he gave us three options – Vienna, Summer in Highland Falls, or Shameless.  We chose Vienna.  Next time he offered multiple options, he opted to play Shameless anyway since the applause had been so great for it as well.  Not a big fan of the cover that Garth Brooks did mainly because I’m not a big Garth fan.  I could really appreciate that it was a great song, though, as I listened to Billy play it with such emotion.  He was clearly enjoying ‘customizing’ the set for the fans.

Billy Joel blended terrific songs, hit after hit, and added some nice comments and personal insight during this 2 hour show.  He shared that this is the first time he had been to Dallas in seven years, that he had been ‘doing his job’ for 50 years, and was still doing it because it was a ‘great job!   In fact, he shared, ‘the best job I ever had.’

ImageRight after those comments he went into one of my favorites – The Entertainer.  He also stated that he hadn’t put out a record in over twenty years.  Maybe it’s because the records he put out longer than twenty years ago are still selling. The guy is a brilliant songwriter and so impressive to see performing live. Why did I wait this long?  What had I been thinking for the last 50 years?  Obviously, I wasn’t thinking right!

He played Allentown, he played Sometimes A Fantasy, She’s Always A Woman, Don’t Ask Me Why, Still Rock and Roll To Me, You May Be Right, and Only The Good Die Young.  The last three were part of his generous and rousing encore.

Our only disappointment was that he didn’t sing New York State Of Mind, Movin Out, Piano Man, or Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.  How could that be, you ask?!!  (wink, wink)  I lied.

And I only did that to prepare you for what I found on the internet regarding comments presumably made by Glenn Beck who evidently was at the same show.

Here’s what Glenn had to say about the concert on Facebook:

Left Billy Joel early. Disappointed.

Was it the fact that he was 90 minutes in before he played one of his real hits? Maybe but all his music is good.

Was it that he meandered and seemed to talk to the band more than the audience?
Maybe but that band sounded great.

Was it that there we just too many fall down drunk people in a very tight row?
Maybe but that is what happens at a concert. Get over it.

Was it that with all of those things I wished I were home with my wife and kids instead? Yep.

There are too many demands on our time and things are way too expensive to stay for someone who, as good as he is, seems to be phoning it in.

Pat and I may have been the only ones that felt that way.

Sorry billy. I literally have every album you have ever made, I have seen you five times.

I hope it was just us and we were the ones having an off night.

ImageMr. Beck, I am sure you are a very nice man and have your act together and know music.  However, please understand in my humble opinion it was indeed you who was having an ‘off night’, not Billy Joel.  He was a class act from start to finish.  Further, under NO circumstances would I agree that he ‘phoned it in’.  He didn’t phone in it, he didn’t mail it in, he didn’t text it in, or tweet it in.  What he did was give a sold out arena of Texas fans an amazing opportunity to see one of the best entertainers in the business ‘Live! (not From New York) From Dallas Texas!’

Until next time remember there is no time to kill.