Sunday, February 28, 2010

Concert Review: Elton John and Billy Joel

Posted By on Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 10:07 PM

By GORDON GUILD

Saturday night at the Sprint Center, Elton John and Billy Joel performed their rescheduled "Face 2 Face" show; but, it could have been dubbed "Face Off" between these two veteran piano men. There were vast differences in John's and Joel's performances: From a frontman's perspective, Sir Elton had a more theatrical stage presence, while B.J. was a true showman by way of his sincere interaction with the crowd.

click to enlarge Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel

To open, two pianos rose from below the stage. The nearly sold-out crowd (median age: mid-forties) stood, applauding and screaming. Joel strolled out to the "Yankee Doodle Dandy," waving to the crowd. Sir Elton marched out to "Rule Britannia," baowing continuously to the audience. After hugging each other at center stage, John and Joel retreated behind their respective pianos.

Let the games begin.

The first four songs were an even exchange of John's "Your Song," then Joel's "Just the Way You Are," then back to EJ with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me," and finally to BJ's "My Life." Above the stage a screen showed a live shot of the two men face to face. Elton looked dolled up (wig and make-up to the hilt), while Joel looked real and impassioned. During the forty-five minute opening, both performers exchanged out on each other's lyrics.

click to enlarge Elton John
  • Elton John
It was obvious from the beginning that Joel was the much stronger vocalist (even though only 3 years separate the two in age difference: Elton, 63, and Joel, 60.) During the evening, John struggled with the high falsetto notes, relying on his backup vocalists and even Joel.

After the prelude, Sir Elton took the stage alone with his

band. His opening was melodramatic, with a long, drawn-out classical piano

introduction to his first song, "Funeral for a Friend." John sang 11 of his classic hits for the enthused

audience. At times, it was difficult to watch the aged Elton struggling vocally

with notes and tinkling way too long on the keyboards. "Levon" was the roughest song. With loud electronic keyboards

(not played by John) and over production, this timeless song lost its greatest

asset: its simplicity and directness. This was also the case for his more

meaningful songs "Tiny Dancer" and "Yellow

Brick Road"; both seemed flat and lacked

depth. John seemed to perform at times with disinterest, like he was simply going through

the motions. But he did come through for the crowd on "Rocket

Man" and "Crocodile Rock." Fans sang aloud, while swaying arms and dancing in the aisles. John hardly reacted to the crowd. His only signs of interaction were little grins

and quirky looks. He exited the stage waving and bowing.

eltonjohn4.jpg
Scott Spychalski

When Joel entered the stage with his band, the energy in the entire arena changed. His introduction to "Angry Young Man" was quick, and he then ripped straight into "Movin' Out."  Joel was more direct about his songs, with little or no theatrics

and no overproduction. He jokingly

introduced himself as "Billy Joel's dad. Billy is younger, thinner, and a full

head of hair," Joel explained. Joel's piano revolved in circles to face the crowd from various

angles. (He commented that the viewers behind him were "getting a lot of

head.")  Joel rolled through his

crowd pleasers like "Allentown," "She's

Always a Woman," and "Still Rock

and Roll to Me." During his set, Joel

showcased his very talented band and even introduced them by name and hometown. His horn players, guitarist, and bass

player were often front and center stage during Joel's songs, launching individual solos. Joel ended his

solo portion with "Only the Good Die Young," and the crowd was still on its feet dancing from the floor seats to

the nosebleeds.

billyjoel2.jpg
Scott Spychalski

After Joel performed his 11 songs, the two superstars joined

forces again with their two bands. Again, they exchanged each others' songs and

lyrics. At one point, Joel was on top of his piano, spinning around as if break

dancing, while Elton's flashiest move was lifting one leg on his lower monitor and

leaping backward, then (of course) flipping his coattails before sitting. During

Elton's "Bennie and the Jets," Joel held

out the prolonged "sssss's" for John during the chorus, showing more enthusiasm for John's song than John himself. The two finished with

Elton's "Candle in the Wind" and

Joel's "Piano Man." Despite a lack of energy in his own tunes, John sang some

of the verses for "Piano Man," and did an excellent job.

billyjoel3.jpg
Scott Spychalski
​​

While time has taken its toll on both piano men, the act was fun as a whole; if

not just to relive those moments from the past. It was great to get together

with Sir Elton and Billy to sing the old ones once again.

eltonjohn2.jpg
Scott Spychalski

Set List:

Elton John and Billy Joel, First Set:

Your Song (Elton John)

Just the Way You Are (Billy Joel)

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me (EJ)

My Life (BJ)


Elton John's Set:

Funeral for a Friend

Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

Levon

Madman Across the Water

Tiny Dancer

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Daniel

Rocket Man

Philadelphia Freedom

I'm Still Standing

Crocodile Rock


Billy Joel's Set:

Angry Young Man

Movin' Out

Allentown

Zanzibar

Don't Ask Me Why

She's Always a Woman

Scenes from an Old Italian Restaurant

River of Dreams

We Didn't Start the Fire

It's Still Rock and Roll to Me

Only the Good Die Young


Elton John and Billy Joel, Final Set:

I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues (EJ)

Uptown Girl (BJ)

The Bitch is Back (EJ)

You May Be Right (BJ)

Bennie and the Jets (EJ)

Candle in the Wind (EJ)

Piano Man (BJ)


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