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"Billy Joel Concert Cancelled"
By: ES Wadlington, III
(December 12th, 2006)
Billy Joel, member
of the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame, will not return to
US Bank Arena for a show April 17th, 2007.
Joel is know for such hits at "Piano Man," "Uptown Girl," "New York State of Mind," "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," and "Just The Way You Are."
However, those sweet melodies will not be heard on stage at US Bank Arena. Officials at the arena confirmed today that the musician will not perform in downtown Cincinnati in the spring.
Any tickets purchased for the show will be refunded at the point of purchase.
"The 'Piano Man' Is Pure Poetry"
Billy Joel & His Steinway Play Blaisdell
By: Katherine Nichols
(December 15th, 2006)
B: Billy Joel. He comes to Honolulu in the wake of megabands such as U2 and Pearl Jam. Can the "Piano Man" measure up?
Undoubtedly, as Joel offers something very different. Even 33 years after his first album was released, he became the first musician to sell out a 12-concert run at Madison Square Garden this year.
I: Innovative. Joel is difficult to categorize sometimes, easing between genres such as pop, rock and classical, with inspiration from jazz, blues, punk and gospel. Superstardom arrived in 1977 with the release of "The Stranger." All told, the guy who made a go of it playing small clubs night after night has sold more than 100 million albums.
L: Longevity. That's what distinguishes Billy Joel, according to promoter Marek Lieberberg, who's worked with Joel for more than two decades. His songs are "wonderful little short stories," said Lieberberg. Each one "is more than just a song; it's a period of time. We all mirror ourselves in these songs. Amazingly, they remain truthful over the years, and they grow in importance over the years."
L: Long time, yeah? It's been about 20 years since Joel played in Hawaii, which means you have to be at least 40 to have any recollection of the occasion. He's been making up for a long break from touring, with seven concerts in Australia, six in Japan and two in the islands. Then he heads to the mainland, working his way through the southern United States, finishing in New Orleans, Louisiana in March 2007. Quite a bit of time has also passed since his last album, which is why he decided to release "12 Gardens Live," featuring some of the most popular songs of his entire career - played at the Madison Square Garden concerts earlier this year.
Y: YouTube. Check out a vintage video of a much younger Joel performing "Piano Man" in a smoke-filled bar. One viewer commented, "I have seen Billy Joel over 10 times and every time he sings this song, it makes me feel young again." It's a fairly sure bet that Joel will not have to sing this tune without help from the audience.
J: "Just The Way You Are" resulted in Joel's first Grammy Award in 1978, when it was chosen as song of the year. He's accumulated 33 top 40 hits, 23 Grammy nominations and six Grammy Awards since his first recording contract in 1972. "Movin' Out," the Broadway musical based on his music, was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won two.
O: Opportunity. Saturday is your chance to hear at least 27 of Joel's classic songs in a two-and-a-half hour set. Fans of his early work won't go home disappointed after hearing "My Life," "Just The Way You Are," "Only The Good Die Young," "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," "Big Shot," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "The River of Dreams," "An Innocent Man," and "Allentown." Of course, every show closes with "Piano Man."
Blaisdell isn't your neighborhood club, but it's a bit more intimate than the stadium. Fortunately, the center stage rotates so everyone can see him play. Joel also moves between his Steinway grand piano (which travels with him to every location), organ, electronic keyboards and harmonica, giving all seats a decent view at some point in the show.
E: Everyman. Joel's energy and rapport with the audience are similar to Bruce Springsteen's, Lieberberg said. This arises from his passion for touring and live performance. "He's been a road person all his life," said Lieberberg.
Like average folks, Joel has had his rough patches. The difference is that his are public. This includes a battle with alcohol, which the 57 year-old has conquered after a methodical journey through recovery at the Betty Ford Clinic in 2005.
L: Long Island. Joel grew up in New York playing piano and competing as an amateur boxer, according to Wikipedia. He joined his first band at 14. After watching the Beatles play on The Ed Sullivan Show, he decided to pursue a professional music career.
After an early first marriage to his manager, and a high-profile one to supermodel Christie Brinkley, in 2004 Joel married Katie Lee, who will accompany him in Hawaii. According to Lieberberg, "he's as happy as he's ever been in his life."
"It's Still Rock and Roll For The 'Piano Man'"
By: Wayne Harada
(December 15th, 2006)
Billy Joel, aka the "Piano Man," considers himself a musical dinosaur but is proud to be in the company of other seniors - the Rolling Stones and U2 - who still tour and pack 'em in.
At 57, the iconic Grammy Award-winning powerhouse amps up the chatter and excitement level when he talks about the other slices of his diverse life: boat designer and builder, retro-motorcycle designer, philanthropist eager to support music education for youngsters.
However, pop music remains his central craft, and for the first time in 20 years he returns to Honolulu with an in-the-round (sort of) show Saturday night at the Blaisdell Arena. His piano will revolve on a turntable stage, giving fans equal opportunity to view him from changing angles.
"This tour has been doing great," he said in an exclusive long-distance call from Osaka on a Saturday afternoon (his Sunday), after shows in Tokyo. He was still perky despite the rigors of traveling.
"There's a lot of athletics to the job now, and it certainly was different in the old days," he said of the 1970s, when he was a fresh arrival on the scene.
"There's now a whole lot of physicality involved; I don't think it was as tiring when we were younger. The shows now are a workout - over two hours of cardiovascular stuff. Do this a couple of times a week, you keep in shape. Besides, you get energized by the audience; if it's a rowdy crowd with a lot of enthusiasm, you use that energy and run with it."
"Keeping The Faith"
Joel is part of an elite club of rock vets still attracting throngs, despite the fact that his Top 10 hits dominated the charts in other decades.
"I'm a dinosaur," he quipped. "I feel like an antique. But these days, antiques have value; concert tours have become the battle of the dinosaurs. I think we have been traveling on the road for years, honing our craft, starting small by working clubs and colleges and becoming major recording artists, helping make the industry big."
Things have changed since Joel's 1980s "Uptown Girl" days.
"With the onset of iPods and downloading, many newer acts today can't do the level of concerts like our live shows. Fortunately for me and others of my generation, we know how to do it. A lot of young acts may have hits, but they don't get the chance to break through the conservatism of radio formats. I learned the traditional way: I played piano, wrote music, did the clubs like a throwback to the older era of jazz. The hard way is the right way."
His current tour launched in January, playing the Mainland for four months before going global.
"This tour has gone around the world," said Joel, "playing every continent except Antarctica and South America. We've done Hong Kong and Japan." From Honolulu he performs on Maui then returns home to New York. But that's not the end - he resumes the tour in February, trotting across America through March 2007.
Despite his continued popularity, Joel is not always the best judge of his work, he admitted. Case in point: He was flattered, but doubtful, about the prospects of "Movin' Out," a musical marrying his songs to dance superstar Twyla Tharp's choreography. The show ran from 2002 to 2005 on Broadway, winning him a Tony Award for Best Orchestration in the process. Alas, a planned stop of the touring production in Hawai'i in September 2006 was canceled.
"I had no idea that it would be very successful," Joel said. "In fact, I thought it was going to be a huge catastrophe, which kind of appealed to me in a perverse way. ...Twyla Tharp, a brilliant choreographer, was going to put together a show around my music. The question I had: Was she going to pick up on the inner rhythms of the songs? Well, she did. Rhythm and counter rhythm. Double time. Half time. My only major input, when this was all coming together, was my insistence that she make a rock and roll band play my music. I didn't want people to get on the platform as if they were singing 'Tonight' from 'West Side Story.'"
"New York State of Mind"
Since the earliest days of his musical success, Joel has played another role as a quiet benefactor.
"We get overcompensated for what we do," he said of rock stars. "The way I look at it, if we don't look at finances, and how best to handle them, (the government) would take it all away. So we try to do what we can."
He contributes time and funds to many charitable organizations and has emerged as an industry advocate for music education. Among his pet projects: the Rosalind Joel Scholarship for The Performing Arts, named for his mother, at New York's City College in New York.
Joel grew up in Long Island, NY, surrounded by a watery setting, so he launched a boatbuilding, boat-designing company called Shelter Island Runabout, dealing with luxury yachts.
"I also have a motorcycle design company," he said, "where we take new motorcycles and make them look old, going for the retro look of the era of the 1940s and '50s. It's kind of like that with the boats."
His music, too, apparently.
"In a way, I do that old thing with my songs, too," said Joel. "Long ago, I learned that you write about what you know, what you lived, taking some kind of memory from life, or some kind of compulsion" that would evolve into a finished song.
"I first decide on a place, in a milieu which may be familiar. 'Uptown Girl,' for example, was a new song, but I made it sound old, like the Four Seasons. 'The Longest Time' also was new, with an old (doo-wop) feel."
Joel grew up in a musical household - his father was a pianist and his mother a singer. "The piano was the only instrument in the house, so when I was a tiny kid, I would just bang on it," he recalled. His mother was not amused and dragged him down the street for lessons. "I wanted to play baseball like everyone else - but I'm glad I learned."
His first love "was classical music," said Joel, "because that's what I heard in my house." He favors Chopin and Beethoven.
When he was 12 or 13, he discovered The Beatles, "and went crazy like other adolescents." And that's about the time he decided music would be his life.
"I found out what I wanted to do at the young age of 12. All my friends were thinking of college," said Joel. "I played in a band at a church dance, and I had a great time performing Beatles songs, surf music, old-time rock and roll. All of a sudden, some girl I liked looked at me, and I thought this was way cool. The priest gave us $15 after the dance. 'You mean you get paid for that?' I asked. I knew this was to be my life."
"'Piano Man' Plays For Honolulu"
Billy Joel Brings His Songs and Piano To The Blaisdell Arena
By: Burl Burlingame
(December 17th, 2006)
Shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was - just a little. It's been something like a decade since Billy Joel last toured, and even longer since he's written or performed pop music, so his concert at the Blaisdell Arena promised to be something of a mystery. What is the "Piano Man" up to these days? No clue what to expect.
It turned out to be one of the best concerts of 2006. Not just because Joel is a ferociously talented songwriter - his Brill Building melodies and clever, empathetic lyrics are among the most unerringly memorable this side of Carole King - or because he's a brilliant musician - his piano playing leans toward chording, and his voice is not only soulful, it has gained seasoning and character since he entered middle age - but because, frankly, Joel has an extraordinary rapport with his audiences.
He seems thrilled to be on stage and appears to love every second of it, and it showed here on Saturday. Joel made a deliberate effort to make eye contact with as many audience members as possible, even busily shaking hands with the fans. Joel's piano was mounted on a rotating platform so that he could play to all points of the compass. It also had an air-conditioning unit attached, blowing cold air at Joel. Sweet ride!
There appeared to be no average Billy Joel fan. The audience ranged from kids to seniors, and most seemed capable of singing along with every lyric, even the obscure nuggets scattered throughout the set list. A couple of times, Joel stopped singing entirely and let the audience take over.
Most of the songs you've heard before - that is, if you've ever owned a radio. "Prelude/Angry Young Man," "My Life," "The Entertainer," "New York State of Mind," "Zanzibar," "Allentown," "Just The Way You Are," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "An Innocent Man," "Keeping The Faith," "She's Always A Woman," "I Go To Extremes," "The River of Dreams," "We Didn't Start The Fire," "Big Shot," "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," "You May Be Right," "Only The Good Die Young," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and - whew! After two hours! - The truly great song about barroom empathy, "Piano Man," which could have been Joel's albatross for these many years. He makes it great still, not by trying to reinvent it, but by making it a moment of bonding with the audience.
The evening also could be thought of as Pop Music 101.
The focus was on the music, and other than first-rate sound and a few snappy lighting effects, there was no stage choreography, except for some frankly scary mike-stand gymnastics by Joel, once he got off the piano stool. There was a bit of goofing around, such as when guitar player Tommy Byrnes trapped Joel into vamping on Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" - I wonder if they knew Elvis' connection with that song and the same stage they were on? - and when the band hilariously flew to pieces when they muffed a chorus break.
First-rate band, too, and well used, particularly when they'd become The Three Tenors. Tenor saxes, that it. They made a honking brass section, and that's critical to Joel's East Coast pop sensibilities. His songs are freight trains of production, powerful and packed to the gills, and certainly sound best live instead of on a tinny car radio. Inspiring, even. There were no solo piano man moments - it was full orchestration all the way, every song, but restrained enough to not sound repetitive. The pacing was excellent.
Certainly the biggest surprise was when Joel donned a guitar and invited a roadie named Chainsaw to sing "Highway To Hell" - and they did AC/DC proud. It was some serious fun.
These days, Billy
Joel looks like a host on "Car Talk," not a pretty pop star.
He makes constant self-deprecating fun of himself and acts the goof
- he introduced himself as "Billy Joel's father" as he rubbed
his balding head - and he occasionally staggers around the stage like
a prize fighter. He's 57, and has some marriages, drinking problems
and car accidents behind him. On the other hand, he's probably in the
best voice of his career, now that it has gained soul and character