Madison, WI - Elton John & Billy Joel: Keys to the show

Elton John & Billy Joel: Keys to the show

Tom Alesia

April 30, 2009

On Thursday, piano-pop giants Elton John and Billy Joel return to Madison for a grandiose double bill. It likely will be Madison's biggest show this year. Place Elton and Billy side by side and you have an eye-popping top-price ticket -- $179.50, some of which are still available -- and plenty of history.

Age -- Elton: 62; Billy: Turns 60 on Saturday

Age began playing piano -- Elton: 3; Billy: 4

Grammy wins --Elton: 5; Billy 5

Strange Grammy fact -- Elton: Didn't win his first solo Grammy until 1991 and that was for Best Instrumental Composition (other than jazz); Billy: Hasn't won a Grammy since 1980

Goofiest on-stage outfit -- Elton: Duck costume (in 1980); Billy: Any '80s show with a skinny tie

Best quote, Elton -- After winning a 1987 libel case against a British newspaper, he said, "You can call me a fat, balding, talentless old queen who can't sing -- but you can't tell lies about me."

Best quote, Billy -- About his hit "Only the Good Die Young," with Joel singing about yearning for a Catholic girl, "The point of the song wasn't so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust."

Ticket price swings -- Elton and Billy: Thursday, it's $179.50; Billy: At UW Stock Pavilion in 1978, it was $6 ... or $6.50 at the door.

Oddest Madison gig -- Elton: Impromptu three-song gig at the Edgewater Hotel piano lounge, where he stayed before opening a 1980 tour at the Dane County Coliseum; Billy: UW's Stock Pavilion in 1978; he ridiculed the place's smell during his 2003 show at the Kohl Center.

Strangest potential concert upheaval -- Elton's May 16, 1972 show at the UW Field House was cancelled "because of unrest on the campus and the possible security problems," according to the State Journal. UW officials were concerned that "such a large gathering of young people might be the target of demonstrators."

Best hit -- Elton: (tie) "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" and "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"; Billy: (tie) "Only the Good Die Young" and "She's Got A Way"

Worst hit -- Elton: "Island Girl"; Billy: "Uptown Girl"

Most dogs -- Elton owns 22

Most Kohl Center appearances by a national act -- Elton. He'll play the arena for the fourth time to top Tim McGraw.

Worst on-stage tantrum -- Billy: Dumped keyboard off the stage when house lights were not dimmed during a 1987 show in the Soviet Union.

Second worst on-stage tantrum -- Billy: Upset by a critic's negative review, he shredded a Los Angeles newspaper in the late 1970s.

Biggest extravagance -- Elton: Paid more than $80,000 for Louis XIV costume to wear at his 50th birthday party.

Worst driving: Billy: Before dealing with his alcohol abuse, he totaled three cars, including his 2002 Mercedes and his 1967 Citroen. The Citroen was run into the house of a 94-year-old woman, who was not injured. She had never heard of Joel. The Mercedes hit a tree.

Family ties -- Elton: Has 10 godchildren, including Sean Lennon (John's son) and David and Victoria Beckham's sons Brooklyn and Romeo; Billy: Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy and Christie Brinkley, played a lukewarm show at Club Majestic in 2006

Worst timing -- Billy: Wrote love ballad "Just the Way You Are" as a gift to his then-wife Elizabeth Weber Small in 1980. They divorced two years later.

Number of wives -- Elton: 1 (Renate Blauel, from 1984 to 1988; though he has been openly gay for many years and in a civil partnership with David Furnish since 2005); Billy: 3 (Elizabeth Weber Small, his ex-business manager; model Christie Brinkley; and TV personality Katie Lee, who was 23 when Joel, then 55, married her in 2004).

First solo album -- Elton: 1969's "Empty Sky" (above); Billy: 1971's "Cold Spring Harbor"

Most popular cover done by another artist -- Elton: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," George Michael; Billy: "Shameless," Garth Brooks

Worst band name -- Billy's second group was called The Hassles.

Worst guest appearance -- Elton performed with dismal heavy metal act Saxon on the band's 1986 album for the song "Party Til You Puke."

Best TV theme for future movie star -- Billy's "My Life" served as the theme song for the 1980s sitcom "Bosom Buddies," starring a young Tom Hanks.

Worst business deal -- Billy signed with Family Productions in the early '70s, not realizing that he agreed to give the company 25 cents for every album he'd sell through the 1980s.

Best partnership -- Elton: Lyricist Bernie Taupin co-wrote most of John's songs; Billy: Choreographer Twyla Tharp took his music and turned them into the Broadway hit "Movin' Out."



Who: Elton John
and Billy Joel

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Kohl Center

Tickets: $179.50, $99.50 and $54

Information: or call 262-1440

Likely set schedule
During their March concerts, the hit-heavy shows lasted almost 3½ hours without intermission. They also followed a similar pattern: Elton and Billy performed together for four songs, then Elton and his band performed their set. Billy and his group followed with their own set, before everyone joined together for nine songs, including two Beatles' covers.
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