Make us your home page
Instagram

The Piano Man runs through the decades at Times Forum



EVE EDELHEIT | Times



TAMPA — If you think Billy Joel is showing a few hard-earned miles these days, you're not alone. "I keep seeing my dad up there!" the 64-year-old lord of Long Island cracked as he gazed at a screen bearing his gray visage Friday at a sold-out Tampa Bay Times Forum. "I didn't think I was going to end up looking like him. I kept thinking, one day —pop! — Cary Grant. Didn't happen."

Nevertheless, if our black-suited Piano Man appears more like a bug-eyed funeral director than a rock star in the year 2013 — his 50th in showbiz — he still sounds awesomely angry and restless and harrumphingly happy to be here, one of the great pop craftsmen and slyly contrarian showmen of our lifetime. And I'm willing to bet the all-ages local crowd of 20,007 that cheered and warbled and belted along with him would robustly agree.

Joel hasn't released a pop album in two decades, but in between stubborn layoffs and grumpy snubs of the business that birthed him, he continues to hit the road, sometimes with sparring pal Elton John, sometimes, most blissfully, with a crack band versed in guitar-ripped rock and brass-blaring R&B.

From the tingly opening notes of Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway), with its bittersweet Florida shout-out, the near two-hour show was rife with deep, sublime album cuts (when he played Vienna and The Entertainer, I might have wept — maybe) and an endless river of dreamy hits that helped raise us into music lovers (Pressure, My Life, Allentown).

"If you have to go to the bathroom, this would be a good time," he smirked before launching into the robustly post-punk Sleeping With the Television On, from 1980's Glass Houses — and which is anything but a toilet-break tune. Oh, and for those of you who ducked out during 52nd Street's jazz-driven Zanzibar instead — big mistake. Killer flugelhorn solo, dudes!

Joel spent a long time on the top of the charts, and yet give the man credit for the street-corner-prog arrangements of Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) and the life-affirming Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, which are so hummable and yet musically complex it's still a marvel to hear them unveil.

Joel kept medicinal mouth spray at the ready ("I saw Madonna use this once — it didn't help her much"), but his voice was relatively full and limber.

Joel rewarded diehards with relative rarities early on (All for Leyna, And So It Goes), but soon enough started checking off the know-'em-by-hearters: New York State of Mind, Don't Ask Me Why, and, of course, Piano Man, for which he allowed the throngs to warble a glorious chunk.

He spent most of the show seated at a slowly rotating black baby grand. ("That's it for special effects," he deadpanned.) But he stood and twirled the mic stand like the world's oldest drum major for an encore of It's Still Rock and Roll to Me. Then came a bare-knuckle-brawling cover of You May Be Right, the preferred car song of my two preteen daughters.

Joel is currently doing a residency at New York City's Madison Square Garden, a string of hometown shows sold out until the fall. That historic booking has the faint air of a wistful goodbye. But from the sound of Friday's gig-closing Only the Good Die Young, this isn't the last time we'll see him on our fair shores. We're not done waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye, and Billy Joel isn't done giving us the chance.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter and Instagram.

The Piano Man runs through the decades at Times Forum 01/17/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 17, 2014 11:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

    Events

    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)