Written by by Dave Clements
The Houston Astros have created plenty of electricity in the air at Minute Maid Park all season long with their red-hot play…and that same feeling was in the air as we walked into the ball park on this Friday night to see the iconic Billy Joel perform. The last time I felt that in this park was when we were blessed to see Sir Paul McCartney perform several years ago.
If you haven’t seen a concert at Minute Maid the stage is basically in Center Field and of course facing home plate with the infield blocked off….and everywhere you look there are fans. I’m sure there were empty seats but certainly there couldn’t have been many. I heard the number 37,000 at some point during the evening.
My general sense was that I really needed to enjoy Joel here in Houston as I might not get the opportunity to see him in Space City again…hope I’m wrong as he is a special performer with great songs.
Back to McCartney for a second – If there was going to be a performer that could rival Sir Paul having Billy at bat is a great choice in this reviewer’s estimation.
This guy is beyond special. He is brilliant in what he does even though he is a New Yorker (jk!). He brings a special charm to the stage that engages the audience not for a song or two but for an entire evening.
He causes this reviewer to hang on his every word between songs and then absorb every lyric of every song…all 20 plus of them this particular evening!
In many ways, to me, he is very similar to my old friend Harry Chapin (also a New Yorker) who created the same magic back in the seventies. (And I might add that if Billy to were read this I don’t think he would be upset to be compared to brilliant Harry Chapin who we lost way too soon in 1981.)
Now on to the show…
The first three songs of Billy’s set were mainly a blur as I was concentrating on taking the images you can find in the HMR Photo Gallery.
The photo aspect of this review might have not gone so well except for a last-minute reprieve allowing those of us approved by Joel’s people to move from stage right to stage left seconds before Billy came on stage. Where they had us positioned would have been extremely difficult to get a clear shot of this entertainer because of the height of the stage and everything in our way. Thanks to all that made the change possible!
Joel opened the show with A Matter of Trust, Pressure, and Just the Way You Are with all three getting a resounding positive response from the capacity crowd, not that I really heard a word of those songs. It’s hard to try to get good images (assuming I did) and enjoy a song from where I was shooting. But please don’t feel sorry for me! It’s a special thrill to be able to shoot a Billy Joel in your own backyard. I don’t take it for granted as not many people get to it. It is beyond exciting for a music lover like me to do what I do. Thank you Billy Joel!
From this point to the end, over two hours later, there are so many comments I could make regarding the evening we could be here all night long writing but let me just share a few with you….
I don’t know the exact number but Joel surrounded himself with some terrific musicians. The added vocals, the percussion support and the horns were all amazing.
Joel’s tribute to his friend Bruce Springsteen who had a birthday the day of the show was cool. Joel played a part of Born to Run and seemed to really enjoy it.
His spotlight on Mick Jagger and the playing of Start Me Up was fun as well.
Spotlighting ZZ Top and playing Tush during the encore was classy given we are in ZZ Top country – and Dusty, RIP, we miss you.
I also want to mention one of the evening’s top highlights – Michael DelGuidice, a former Billy Joel cover band performer, now with Joel, kicked butt with Nessun dorma sung in Italian. It was just stunningly beautiful.
And let’s not forget Crystal Taliefero who is amazing as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist . On this night she covered Dancing In The Streets by Martha & The Vandellas. You rock Crystal and need to bring your own show to Houston! And Carl Fischer on the trumpet was crazy good!
Now for the LARGEST highlight for me, my wife (‘goosebumps’ she said) and likely many others in attendance, The Piano Man. A special moment of closeness in a very large room. Seems everyone in the building was singing along and enjoying the chance to be part of the Billy Joel experience and his special song.
I hope Billy enjoyed it as much as we did. It has to be hard playing it over and over year after year!
Two more things I want to add. One, the Astros’ and Live Nation folks made this evening special. Thank you so much for that.
And two – the blonde lady in the black dress two rows in front of us who felt compelled to stand up and video tape on her phone Only the Good Die Young instead of staying seated and enjoying the show… thank you for your consideration (not!) Rather than recording something standing you could have gotten the same recording seated and you still likely will never watch it. Being considerate to your fellow concert goers regarding your cell phone is something we all need to embrace, in my opinion.
Until next time please support live music every chance you have and keep your cell phone head level or below. And help keep live music alive!