Billy Joel once again escaped the cold and snow of the northeast to perform in Tampa, Florida on Friday night, February 7th, and their loss was definitely our gain. The Amalie Arena was packed to the rafters with a crowd of young and old, 23,000 strong to see this performance and song writing icon. Mark Horan of MarkHoran.Pictures LLC was on hand to cover the show. And what a show it was!
Billy Joel has been performing the past five decades and is blowing into a sixth with the energy a man 20 years younger would envy. I was lucky enough to see Billy Joel before the world really knew who he was. Back then, he was the opening band for The Michael Stanley Band, with a ticket price of just $7.00. The show was in a small theater in Akron, Ohio in 1977, just a few months before he released the blockbuster album “The Stranger.” The rest, of course, is musical history.
The Tampa show was scheduled at 8pm but was delayed about 15 minutes for unknown reasons. The stage was darkened with a few lights so the band could take their places. When the lights finally came up. Billy was front and center with a guitar as the band burst into “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” It was a nice change, the show starting with Billy on his feet and playing guitar, as this song is usually toward the end of the show. With photographers usually only allowed to shoot the first three songs of the set, pictures of Billy Joel on guitar are few and far between. At that point I knew it was going to be a special night.
After the first song, Billy asked the crowd what they wanted to hear? Should he take requests? Or should he play his greatest hits? Or maybe just play Led Zeppelin covers the entire night. The capacity crowd cheered as they knew he was teasing them and just having a good time. As Billy settled behind the black grand piano in his customary position, the crowd settled into their seats. This didn’t last long as the love affair with Billy Joel’s greatest hits continually brought the crowd to their feet as they danced and sang along during the entirety of the show.
There is always a twist or special guest at a Billy Joel concert, and this night was no different. The band played four covers: “I Feel Fine” by The Beatles, and ZZ Top‘s “Tush”, which segued into “The River of Dreams” and “Rock N Roll” by Led Zeppelin during the final song, “You May Be Right.” But the highlight of the show was the singing of “Nessun dorma,” from the Opera Turandot, sung by the rhythm guitar player, Mike DelGuidice. The audience went crazy and I’m sure even Luciano Pavarotti would have been on his feet after that performance.
From beginning to the end, some two and a half hours later, everyone in attendance was grinning from ear to ear and praying the show would never end. But, after 21 of Billy Joel’s greatest hits, the show was over. Billy, not wanting the night to end himself, came back on stage to perform a four song encore that absolutely brought down the house. Starting first with his signature strutting on stage during “Uptown Girl” then twirling his microphone stand like a college drum major during “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, which featured Mark Rivera on the tenor saxophone. Billy settled at the piano, banging out “Big Shot”, as the black grand piano rotated around to give everyone in the house a great view of the one and only Piano Man. Finally, the night wouldn’t have been complete without “You May Be Right”, with a bit of Led Zeppelin mixed in for good measure.
I was exhausted by the end of the show, but Billy looked as though he could go on for another hour as “The Entertainer” is truly ageless, even at the young age of seventy! His show is timeless and very entertaining for all ages!
Billy Joel – Vocals, Piano, Harmonica, Guitar
Mike DelGuidice – Guitar, Vocals
Tommy Byrnes – Guitar
Schuyler Deale – Bass
David Rosenthal – Keyboards
Crystal Taliefero – Percussion
Mark Rivera – Saxophone
Chuck Burgi – Drums
- We Didn’t Start the Fire
- My Life
- The Entertainer
- Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
- Summer, Highland Falls
- Don’t Ask Me Why
- The Downeaster Alexa
- Say Goodbye to Hollywood
- New York State of Mind
- Modern Woman
- She’s Always a Woman
- I Feel Fine (The Beatles cover)
- Sometimes a Fantasy
- Only the Good Die Young
- The River of Dreams (with ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top interlude)
- Nessun dorma (Giacomo Puccini cover)
- Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
- Piano Man
- Uptown Girl
- It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
- Big Shot
- You May Be Right (‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin )
Photographer and Editor/Founder of AllMusicMagazine.com. My love of live music has taken me to incredible experiences with the top bands of all time in stadium shows to the smallest venues with equally inspiring musicians. Using the medium of photography and my publication, these memories will last forever.