Dikkii has graciously allowed me to present this month’s rock epic. I am not really sure of the format but will endeavour to produce some interesting reading. I have decided to give everyone an insight to a wonderful performer who I finally had the privilege of seeing over the past weekend so the basis will be a run down of the concert and some quiet thoughts from the Hulk. I hope you enjoy.
It is a rare occurrence these days when one has the opportunity to witness a truly great performer, artist, lyricist and ambassador to the music industry who has been around for more than a couple of years and whose music catalogue extends further the one great album. I truly believe these days that so many are quick to point out how good a performer is based on nothing more than maybe one or two top forty hits. Sure they may be a good performer but will they one day be truly great? Do they write their own lyrics? Do they play an instrument? Do they have a degree in music of some sort? Have they played with some of the other truly great performers of the world? And furthermore has their music stood the test of time where they are respected worldwide not only for their performances but for the substance that their art has delivered and continued to deliver over many years?
I had the privilege of attending a show with one such artist on Saturday night and if I were to use the word great to describe it that would be a gross understatement. I am talking about none other than Billy Joel. A man whose humble beginnings playing in a piano bar turned into international superstardom over a 30 year plus career. From the very beginning before even entering the concert you can tell how this man has survived for so long in arguably one of the toughest professions in the world, especially at the present. The excessively wide age gap between the crowd said it all. It was clear to see how many generations had been positively affected by this man's art.
Song one answered many questions such as: Is he going to be able to play his songs as good as he used to? Is he still just as adept on the piano? etc. To put it in perspective, the man is 60 plus years old and starts the show with "Angry Young Man". For those who don't know this song, it starts off with one of the fastest piano pieces imaginable and for a person of that age endeavouring in such a task and completing it perfectly quashed the questions you may have had in relation to this with the utmost authority. Proceeding on, many performers I have noticed do little or the bare minimum to incorporate the crowd and personalise it. Come out, play songs, say thanks, concert over. The same cannot be said for Billy. Immediately after this first song he addressed the audience and when I say that, he actually had a chat like we were sitting on the couch at home having a beer and a ciggy. This made it feel like you were the only person in the room. A refreshing change I must say. But what I think it says more is that it shows the difference and maturity compared to someone a little less "seasoned" in the art form.
From songs such as Big Shot, Allentown, a haunting and a slightly bluesier rendition of New York State of Mind to the later classics such as We didn't start the fire, he did not miss a beat (Pardon the cliché). Other notable performances were, You May Be Right, Only the Good Die Young (which was a song written in reference to him trying to top himself apparently) Its still rock and Roll to Me etc. The most wonderful thing he did though was too play some of the more obscure songs that are never heard on the radio but are equally as good, at least for all the die hard fans. I refer to this as he played a song off the Turstiles album called Vienna. A song that he wrote referring to the 2nd World War where he is basically saying "Don't worry, Vienna will always wait for you" being the city that remained independent of the war itself, (or mostly). This was a treat which I did not even imagine witnessing. Having said that, it was a clear illustration of what a great performer or wannabe great performer should try to accomplish.
The rest of the show had all the bells and whistles without "over production" and ridiculous pyrotechnics which do nothing but take the emphasis away from what you are actually there for. Also worth a mention, he decided to get one of his roadies up on stage and while he jumped off the piano and grabbed a guitar, his roadie sang Highway to Hell by AC/DC. Another indication of a performer who understands his audience. Skilled art? I will let you decide.
Through the many great albums and an endless list of “actual” hits that most would know coming off albums such as Streetlife Serenader, Turnstiles, Piano Man, Glass Houses, 52nd Street and so on, the concert could have gone on all night without a break from the crowd singing every word, but it did not need too. It was all answered in the climatic ending when 15,000 or so people, all on their feet, arm over each other shoulder, Billy on the piano and a Harmonica around his neck singing the one and only...... Piano Man.
It was a a remarkable experience and one I will remember affectionately for a long, long time and even though I am a tragic fan, I would still, as unbiasly as possible, recommend giving yourself the honour of being in his audience if you get the chance. Most of today’s acts are incomparable, but I do hope some of the musical talents in the world take a leaf out of Billy Joel's book so future generations can experience what we all have.
This will conclude my guest role on Rock Epic of the Month. I do thank Dikkii for the opportunity and hope you enjoyed it. I will look forward to any comments you may have.