Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Review: The First Face to Face Gig of '09
The concert was big. It just felt BIG.
There were two big stars – Elton John and Billy Joel, playing at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, their first tour together since 2003. And this was the very first show on this latest edition of the Face 2 Face Tour. That’s big.
The stage was big, the lights were big … bathing the stage in dark blue or bursting it into orange and red flames.
And the crowd was big and, of course, mostly old enough not only to remember but to have bought those first albums from the two back in the early 1970s.
It started like this: At 7:45 p.m., (only 15 minutes late, which isn’t bad) two black, grand pianos rose from underneath the stage. To the strains of “Yankee Doodle,” Joel came up on one side of the stage.
John walked up on the other while another tune played — I recognized it, it was British, I should be able to name it … but I can’t.
Joel was dressed in a dark suit. John was a little more flamboyant, no surprise there, but far less than the old days. He settled for a black jacket with tails, with a good bit of glitter on the back. Still pretty tame.
About three hours and fifteen minutes later, they finished the last notes of “Piano Man,” shook a few hands along the stage, hugged each other a few times and waved goodbye.
And in between, yes, it was a fine show. They played four songs together to start the show, another six to end. As good as they were on their own – they each did a little more than an hour with their bands - watching and hearing them play together was just special.
For the first show on the tour, there were few glitches. A couple of loud feedback squawks forced some hands over ears.
The biggest problem was that Joel’s vocals weren’t loud enough for most of his set. It’s hard to know if he just didn’t project as much as John did or if it was in the mix.
John’s voice, by the way, is still remarkably strong and clear. He simply sounded great playing and singing.
They each had their styles. John got up between each song and waved to the audience. But he was pretty stationary when he played, stayed perched on his piano stool. He didn’t talk a lot, but seemed to have plenty of fun being there.
Most human moment: When he broke into a bit of a laugh as he looked over at Joel and sang the opening verse to “Piano Man,” … “There’s an old man sitting next to me.”
Joel was much more active, joking with the audience, bouncing on his stool. He stepped away from the piano and strapped on a guitar for “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” For “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me,” he put down the guitar and jumped around the stage twirling the microphone stand.
There were a few times when interest seemed to wane during John’s set, including the long instrumental during “Madman Across the Water.” You’ve got to admire his courage though, It’d have been easier to just play a bunch of four-minute versions of his hits.
But he did some of that, too. And his extended version of “Rocket Man” was one of the real highlights.
About three hours, after they had the crowd on its feet with “Bennie and the Jets” and a surprise version of the Beatles’ “Birthday” and “Back in the USSR,” it looked like it was time to leave and then come back for the obligatory encore.
Instead, they met at center stage, Joel looked at his watch, they talked and then went back to their pianos. There they played the two songs they had to do, the ones that had probably been planned for the encore. But John explained that he didn’t like stopping just then.
So they finished with his “Candle in the Wind” and Joel’s more-than-appropriate “Piano Man.”
Following is the complete set list of the Jacksonville show on March 2, 2009:
Elton John/Billy Joel (solo)
Elton John/Billy Joel (bands)
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Elton John set
Funeral For A Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)
Burn Down The Mission
Madman Across The Water
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I'm Still Standing
Billy Joel set
Angry Young Man
Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
She's Always A Woman
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
I Go To Extremes
River Of Dreams (feat. Take Me To The Pilot)
We Didn't Start The Fire
It's Still Rock'n'Roll To Me
Only The Good Die Young
Elton John/Billy Joel (Bands)
The Bitch Is Back
You Maybe Right
Bennie And The Jets
They Say It's Your Birthday
Back In The U.S.S.R.
Elton John/Billy Joel (solo)
Candle In The Wind
- Jacksonville.com & Stephan Heimbecher.