Piano Man Returns to Boston Garden
It was eight o’clock on a Monday, and the regular crowd shuffled in. But it wasn’t until 8: 20 that Billy Joel took the stage for the final Boston appearance in his 1993 “River of Dreams” tour. It was worth the wait.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that Billy Joel came to town to promote his greatest hits album; because if you were lucky enough to get tickets to one of the three sold-out shows, that’s what you were treated to. The piano man opened big on the 14th (only the second show of the tour), and on the 20th he closed even bigger.
“For the third time, good evening, Boston. How the hell are ya? Last year we started the tour in Worcester. This year I thought we’d start the tour downtown,” said Joel, once again reaffirming his excitement to be back in the North End for the first time since the ’70s.
Throughout his two hours of stage work, Joel did everything from his best Bob Dylan impersonation to an opinion poll about his beard. Amid incredible lighting effects, Joel reeled off hits like “Pressure,” “Allentown,” and “My Life,” while mixing in a few tracks from his new album “The River of Dreams.” Joel even donned the accordion for a rendition of his “Storm Front” tune, “The Downeaster Alexa.” “When I went to school,” said Joel, “if you took piano lessons, they beat the [ ] out of you, and if you played the accordion, they’d really kill you.”
But it was Joel who did the killing as the real show began when he slipped into a moving rendition of “Goodnight Saigon” complete with blasting helicopter sound effects, followed by “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” an energetic “You May Be Right,” and a finale of the classic “Only the Good Die Young.” To no surprise, Joel came back for a two-song encore. Surprising, however was his rendition of the Elvis great “All Shook Up” for the first time in over a year, before he moved into an antics-filled performance of “Big Shot.” Just moments after he said his second good-bye, Joel returned to the stage for a final encore. The crowd’s anticipation erupted as Joel took the centerstage piano with harmonica in hand. Cleverly faking out the crowd, Joel began to play the first few lines of one of his less notable songs before stopping and breaking out into his masterpiece, “Piano Man.”
The night could not have ended any better as the band fell silent upon the last chorus to hear 15,000 fans sing to Joel, “Sing us a song, you’re the piano man. Sing us a song tonight. For we’re all in the mood for a melody, and you’ve got us feeling all right.” n
Review by E. G., Framingham, MA
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