–by Sean Derrick
Pop icon Billy Joel stopped in Saint Louis Thursday for a sold-out show at Busch Stadium, and he wasn’t promoting anything new.
The Piano Man himself admitted as much early on by asking the crowd “What am I gonna play? I don’t have anything new, just some old sh*t.” To which the crowd roared with approval.
It’s been just over 24 years since River of Dreams was released, his last album of new pop material, yet he has remained a top selling draw at concerts. This is evident by the fact he completely sold out Busch Stadium and other stadiums around the country.
With no opening act Joel performed for over 2 and a half hours and was quick with the one liners and jokes. After starting the show off with “My Life” Joel greeted the crowd with a serious “Hello Saint Louie, glad you could make it. I heard things have been a little tense around here.” Referring to the unrest the city has felt that caused the cancellation of the U2 show at The Dome at America’s Center just five days earlier.
He then quickly changed the subject, performing the beginning of Elton John’s “Your Song” stating the last time he played Saint Louis was with the “other piano guy” ( He was referring to the 2009 concert with Elton John at Scottrade Center, but in reality Joel was here in 2014 to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the building he opened with a concert in 1994).
After joking about how rich Elton John really was (in contradiction to the verse from “Your Song”) Joel reminisced about how often he had played in Saint Louis since the early 70’s (that’s probably why he forgot about the 2014 show, easy to get that mixed up). “I played Kiel Opera House, Kiel Auditorium, Kiel Center…What’s next? “Kiel” Over?”
Joel also brought out an essential piece for him; a flyswatter, which he used throughout the night so no bugs would get the better of him on the abnormally hot and humid late September night. (He also used bug spray to rid the area of the pesky critters) But no matter how hot it got Joel never once took off his suit jacket or loosened his tie. Some would see that as crazy, while others admired him for his professionalism.
Joel has always been quick witted throughout his career, and he has always had entertaining shows. As he rolled through many of the hits from his long and successful career, he threw in several deep cuts and gave the audience choices on four selections for the night. To the surprise of some the audience chose the album cut “Vienna” over the top ten hit “Just the Way You Are”. But that shouldn’t have been a surprise as the trend has been for the past ten of his concerts shows “Vienna” won only twice. Maybe fans realize that it is one of Joel’s favorite songs and wanted to give him the pleasure of singing it.
After the crowd chose “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” over “The Downeaster Alexa” he dutifully performed it, then told the crowd how many facts were mistaken in the song “I was full of crap” when he wrote it, he joked.
Joel not only performed many of his own hits but delved into others as well. After explaining how much impact The Beatles had on his life and career choice he delved into a great cover of “A Day in the Life” with guitarist Mike DelGuidice singing Paul McCartney’s part. It was certainly one of the many highlights of the night.
DelGuidice took front and center later on to showcase his incredible vocal talents on the Puccini cover of “Nessun dorma”, stunning the crowd.
Joel also gave way to his multi-talented percussionist Crystal Taliefero who sang “Heatwave” in the middle of “The River of Dreams”.
One of the more surprising moments came when Joel, strapped on a guitar as his band played “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC, let his long time roadie of 34 years, the aptly named “Chainsaw”, sing lead. As Chainsaw did his best Bon Scott impression Joel roamed in with the crowd in front of the stage.
At 68 Joel’s voice still is strong and his enthusiasm never waned. Roaring through hit after hit it was hard to pick a highlight that stood out. I could say it was “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with its high energy keeping the crowd amped up. I know he has been alternating shows with that and “My Life” as the opening song, but the photographer in me would have preferred he opened this show with that song as we were kept to one area next to the stage with limited views of Joel and even more limited views of his band or stage setup.
Apart from that, which didn’t affect the show or the audience, just us photographers, the show was flawless. Joel doesn’t need new material to stay relevant, he is an icon in music and Thursday night proved that by itself.
Given the long and successful career he has had, a Billy Joel concert should be on anyone’s bucket list.
Check out the photo gallery that follows his setlist below.
Billy Joel Setlist:
Your Song (Elton John cover snippet)
Vienna (audience choice over “Just the Way You Are”)
Zanzibar (Audience choice over “Big Man on Mulberry Street”)
The Ballad of Billy the Kid (Audience choice over “The Downeaster Alexa”)
New York State of Mind
Don’t Ask Me Why
And So it Goes (Audience choice over “Leningrad”)
A Day in the Life (The Beatles cover)
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
She’s Always a Woman
Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)
Sometimes a Fantasy
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
We Didn’t Start the Fire
The River of Dreams
Heatwave (Martha and the Vandellas cover)
The River of Dreams (reprise)
Nessun dorma (Giacomo Puccini cover)
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
Only the Good Die Young
You May Be Right (with “Rock ‘n Roll” by Led Zeppelin snippet)