Photos and review by David "Gus" Griesinger
One of the most prolific songwriters in the history of popular music made his first appearance in Western New York in over a decade last Saturday night. Billy Joel has sold over 150 million albums and ranks as seventh best recorded artist of all time. When an artist of such magnitude plays your area, it's a big deal. The last time Joel played here was on March 9, 2010, when he was with Elton John. This time around, he brought his eight-piece band with him. The fans and Joel couldn't have asked for a better summer night as it was a magical 70 degrees with a gentle breeze. Hearing Joel outside on a beautiful Saturday night, what could be better?
Joel was supposed to take the stage at 8pm but as the crowd was still filtering in, the time was pushed back a little. He ended up actually taking the stage at 8:38pm. The upbeat "Movin' Out" was first on the docket. For the entire set (outside of the encore), Joel stayed behind the piano as it rotated from side to side so everyone could get a glimpse of him. After, "Pressure," Joel gave a history lesson of the word "Buffalo" and how the area originally took the name. He talked about being familiar with the area as he played places like Fredonia in the past. Joel was engaging, telling the audience that the hits would be played but wanted to play "Summer, Highland Hills," which went over very well. Joel, could do no wrong. He was witty and charming but let his fingers and voice really do the talking for him. Any insects around Joel were taken care of promptly as Joel had his own fly swatter on his piano, which he raised a few time's during his set.
Joel is known for having special guests show up at his shows. This show was no different, one of the biggest musicians to ever come out of Buffalo is Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. Rzeznik played a Goo's song called "Iris." Surprisingly, Joel didn't add anything to the song except support. This had to be a career highlight for Rzeznik playing with Joel and doing it where he grew up. It was a great local touch for the evening. Joel let his band members take spotlights at various times. Rhythm guitarist Mike DelGuideice was a hidden gem. His harmonies were a great addition and he took lead vocals on the Italian classic "Nessun Dorma." He got a standing ovation for his efforts and it was well deserved. He also sang snippets of ZZ Top's "Tush" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," which he nailed too. Joel's horn section included longtime band member Marc Rivera on saxophone, Carl Fischer on trumpet and Crystal Taliefero-Pratt, who played a variety of instruments. They were great as well.
At the start of the encore, Joel took to the guitar for the only time during the show played it for "We Didn't Start the Fire." For the rest of the encore, Joel sang front and center. It was just Joel and the microphone. He sang, danced and had a great time finishing off the set with "You May Be Right."This was quite a show! Joel's voice sounded just as strong as when I saw him 11 years ago. The fans waited for this show for over a year and half since tickets actually went on sale. 35,000 strong can surely attest that it was well worth the wait!