Omaha - Review: Joel, John show Omaha that boomers still rock

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edited 05/14/09 in Billy Joel Discussion

Review: Joel, John show Omaha that boomers still rock

BY KATHRYN CATES MOORE / Lincoln Journal Star
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 - 10:04:29 am CDT

OMAHA — When two piano men — Billy Joel and Elton John — faced off Tuesday night at the packed Qwest Center, the audience didn’t get just one performance. It was more like three separate concerts, nonstop, back-to-back, for 3 ½ hours.

Two shiny, ebony Yamaha grand pianos rose from the stage, and the two musical legends took their seats. They grinned at each other, nodded to the audience, and the evening was off and running.

Elton John, 62, was dressed in formal black tails emblazoned on the back with sparkly graphics, “Music Magic,” an Eltonish Harry Potter on the front and an owl on his sleeve. Yes, he still wears rose-colored glasses, studded with rhinestones. And even though his platform shoes are not as high as they were when he came to the Devaney Center in Lincoln in 1980, they were silver.

Billy Joel, who just turned 60, stayed true to his New York roots, wearing a black shirt, charcoal tie and black jeans.

Their opening duets, which alternated between Joel’s hits and John’s, such as “Your Song,” “Honesty,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” and “My Life,” blended their different voices and styles.

With barely a dimming of the lights, one piano disappeared and Sir Elton was on stage alone. For the more than an hour, he and his five-piece band led the audience through hit after hit, taking time to demonstrate his classical piano genius with extended improvisations.

The crowd was filled with baby boomers who listened to the soundtrack of their youth in songs like “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But another large part of the arena was 20-somethings — and they knew all the words too.

After a dozen songs, the lights dimmed again and Joel was on stage alone. Between hit after hit, Joel bantered with the audience and his eight-piece band. Joel’s baby grand piano rotated 360 degrees, so all of the audience could see his hands rock up and down the piano keys.

“That’s about it for special effects,” he said.

With songs like “Moving Out, “She’s Always a Woman,” and “Still Rock ’n’ Roll to Me,” the concert often had a sing-a-long feeling. At one point, Joel congratulated the crowd for being on pitch.

The high-energy event wasn’t over yet, as the two pianos and musicians returned. Again, they bounced from one of their hits to another, including “Uptown Girl,” “Bitch is Back” and “Bennie and the Jets.”

This concert was old school rock and roll, and songs such as their closings, “Candle in the Wind” and “Piano Man,” have stood the test of time. Elton John and Billy Joel, who thanked fans, shook hands and even signed a few autographs before exiting the stage, showed they have much more going for them than just nostalgia.
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