Madison - ‘Face to Face’ with Billy Joel and Elton John

‘Face to Face’ with Billy Joel and Elton John

By Michelle Langer on May 8, 2009 5:09 PM

You know you’re at a concert not necesarily geared to your age group when a 65 year-old woman is dancing so much, she’s about to need a hip replacement. This was only one scene during Billy Joel and Elton Johns’s Face-to-Face concert last night at the Kohl Center.

John and Joel began the concert together with their pianos dramaticall rising out of the floor. It was a stunning opening, with each singing pieces of each other’s songs, Joel in a black suit and Elton in a tux with a sequined rocket ship on the back.

After a few pieces together, Billy’s piano sunk back into the floor and John was left onstage alone, soon to be joined by his backup band. One of the guitar players was amusingly stuck in the ’70s, with long hair flowing and skin sparkling from excess glitter. He also have away guitar picks to the college girls in the audience, which he seemed to get quite the kick out of.

Of course, John did some of his well-known pieces, including “Tiny Dancer,” as well as some less famous songs from earlier albums. The sound quality throughout Elton’s set was excellent, with the exception of rare moments where his voice competed against the band, the result of which sounded like he was screaming into the microphone.

Throughout the majority of John’s set, the younger people in the audience looked lost, until “Rocket Man.” In particular, when Elton got to the “high as a kite” lyric, the younger crowds erupted in applause.

After Elton finished his set, Billy appeared onstage. He began with the piece “Angry Young Man,” which his often his piece for opening a concert. And it’s no wonder, since it features a fast-tempo piano and it easily gets the audience riled up. Throughout his set he stuck with pieces that were famous, such as “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “It’s Still Rock n’ Roll to Me.”

Throughout the set, he also cracked jokes with the audience, mostly about his age. For example, he began by introducing himself as Billy Joel’s father, adding the fact that Billy was not able to make it due to the fact that he was washing his hair (ironic, for those of you who don’t know, because Joel is completely bald). He also got the audience involved by referring to the audience on the opposite end of the arena as the “people in Eau Claire.”

Although John’s set had great sound, something was off with the sound for Joel. Terrible feedback occasionally plagued the performance, especially in “Movin’ Out.” However, those moments were few and far between.

Joel took a different musical approach in this concert by singing some pieces sans piano and also playing guitar. Maybe this has to do with influence from his new 28-year-old wife to get him into the spirit of trying new things. Whatever the motivation, he pulled it off.

Some of the better highlights of the show occurred when Joel and John took the time to relate to the audience. John dedicated “Crocodile Rock” to a family in the audience. Both of them also signed autographs and shook hand with the people in the front row, making them seem much more down to earth.

The duo ended the concert by singing few pieces together, as well as “Happy Birthday” for Joel whose birthday is tomorrow. Finally, they ended off with “Piano Man” Joel’s signature finally piece.

Though this concert may have not been intended for someone in my age bracket, I found myself shaking my creaky hips with the best of them. And maybe the age divide enhanced the show, as it not only allowed those who lived through these artists’ hay-day to remember their prime, but it also gave those of us who did not have the opportunity to be there to get a tiny taste into the past. Billy Joel and Elton John may be getting older, but let me tell you, they ain’t dead yet.
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